A Voice in the
"We've been 'seeking God's face' and looking for forgiveness, but revival just doesn't seem to be coming like we had hoped." Words to this effect, from a local pastor recently during a radio interview.
"Well, can't you just Forgive and Forget!" is another whining expression one hears. "You need to have forgiveness in YOUR heart."
In one case a hoped for sense of blessing and revival is not forthcoming. In another, a person who has wronged someone else is not experiencing forgiveness. What is the missing element?
In Solomon's temple dedication prayer, "When [Your people] sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin)...yet when they come to themselves...and repent, and make supplication to You..saying, 'We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickedness'; and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul...then hear in heaven...and forgive Your people who have sinned against You...and grant them compassion." (~1Kgs8:46-50)
What did God respond? "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2Chr7:14)
What are the conditions for cleansing? REPENTANCE. What is repentance? Here are three elements:
First of all, a feeling of remorse, contrition, or self-reproach for what one has done or failed to do. At Peter's preaching it says the hearers were "cut to the heart." (Acts2:37) James says, "Lament and mourn and weep! ..Humble yourselves.." (Jas4:9-10)
Why is there no revival today, nor forgiveness? Are people humbling themselves before God? Hardly! They are too busy feeling a distorted sense of "graeess." Are pumped up to "feel good about themselves." Recognizing their "self-worth" and "value" to God. Or so they suppose.
But then, why should they feel remorse? They don't feel they have even done anything wrong. They don't recognized the Truth of God's Word which says, "But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; (Isa64:6) They are part of: "there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God."(Rom3:11)
So then, obviously, the second part of repentance is missing. "to change one's mind regarding past conduct." There is no remorse. There isn't even regret. And certainly, no CHANGING anything!
And if there is no changing "one's mind" about it, there certainly isn't going to be a NEW BEHAVIOR. An improvement of one's attitude to rectify anything...if it is not recognized that anything has been "wrong." The term here.. "SIN."
This is the source of the old expression, "forgive and forget." Have you ever been wronged, and the person who wronged you, no matter what one tries to do, continues the attitudes which caused that wrong? As a result, the offenses repeat. In your heart you may be trying to forgive that person, and perhaps you actually have. But the next time the offense occurs, you find yourself of necessity responding as appropriate. And what does the offending party retort? "Why can't you JUST forgive and forget!"
Well, they have never repented have they. Perhaps, in their heart, they actually feel they are in the "right." That they have done no wrong. And yet they know they have offended you, and want to be ab- solved, somehow magically, without having to humble themselves and admit, "I was wrong! I'm oh so sorry. I will make efforts to correct my behavior. Please forgive me?"
You see, there is a prescribed order to things. Jesus put it this way, "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him." (Luke 17:3-4)
If someone commits an offense against you, you have the right (and obligation) to confront him with that offense. A rather strong word, "rebuke." The act of rebuking has nothing to do with one's state of heart in terms of "forgiving." The offense has occurred. Now, get it out in the open and deal with it.
Upon being rebuked, the offender has two choices. Either to recognize his guilt and repent, or refuse to humble himself. If he repents, he is to be forgiven.
Do you see the order here? Repentance first. Then, forgiveness.
We have a society that forgives everybody when there has been no repentance. No confrontation. People are allowed to go about without being held accountable for their actions.
Christians "forgive" sinners in like manner, telling them they don't need to repent before God, because they are so "valuable" to Him, and God accepts them "just as they are." They are "already" forgiven. That is a "different" gospel. (Gal1:8)
What does God's Word say? Jesus "opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures..."Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that REPENTANCE and REMISSION of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Lk24:45-47) This is the Gospel Jesus commanded to be preached.
What did the Apostles preach? "Repent...for the remission of sins." (Acts2:38) "...to give repentance... and forgiveness of sins."(Acts5:31)
God said, "If my people...will turn from their wicked ways [repent]...I will forgive. Conversely, God REFUSES TO FORGIVE when there is no repentance, "your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He WILL NOT HEAR." (Is59:2)
People are "seeking God's face" but are not repenting. Thus, there is no forgiveness. No revival. People are wronging each other, and not accepting rebuke. Thus, there is no fellowship. No forgiveness, that comes with a cleared conscience.
You see, it is a very "hard thing" to humble one's self to admit, "I was wrong." The anticipation of condemnation and rejection at the hand of the one we've wronged really hurts. It's scary. We'd rather not do it. But if a person will..the rewards are incalculable.
"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit."(vs1-2)
"These times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men...to repent."(Acts17:30)
The result of repentance?
"The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy...He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities...For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Ps103:8-12)