March 26, 2004
Encouragement for Today
Mary Southerland - Author, Speaker and Director for Proverbs 31 Ministries
Ephesians 1:7 He (God) is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven. (NLT)
Several years ago an interesting cartoon appeared in the "Saturday Review of Literature." Little George Washington is standing with an ax in his hand. In front of him, lying on the ground is the famous cherry tree. He has already made his smug admission that he did it because, after all, he "cannot tell a lie." However, his frustrated father is standing there saying, "All right, so you admit it! You always admit it! The question is when are you going to stop doing it?"
That is the question at hand, my friend. We often soothe our bothered conscience with admissions of sin, presenting them to the Father in obedience to the spiritual principle that we must confess our sin. There is, however, an element of true confession that goes a step farther and results in a change in lifestyle and behavior. It is called repentance. I once associated the command to repent with old-fashioned gospel meetings and screaming preachers on television. In reality, repentance is the very cornerstone of genuine forgiveness and gives credibility to the very act of confessing sin. To repent simply means to "turn away from". When we choose to turn from our sin and turn to God and His ways, we are practicing true repentance.
The Gospel of Luke tells the story of a prostitute who came to Jesus Christ in true repentance. Her story is a beautiful illustration of authentic worship, the result of her unabashed willingness to repent of sin and seek God's forgiveness.
Luke 7:38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
Notice that this woman stood behind Jesus like a "caught" child ashamed to look her Father in the eyes. I am certain that her guilt and sense of unworthiness prevented her from facing Him. Just being in His presence made her doubt everything about herself but nothing about Him. Standing so close to Him completely transformed her and she began to weep. Jesus was as pure as she was sinful. Every ugly thought, word or deed of her past must have flooded her heart and shattered it.
Tears of sorrow and joy spilled down her face onto the feet of the One - the only One who truly loved her. Those tears were the first genuine prayer of her life. She then let her hair down in total submission, dropped to her feet and began to dry the feet of Jesus with her hair. The social custom of the day demanded that women keep their hair bound up. To let it down was considered a brazen act and could even be grounds for divorce. But this woman was beyond caring about social custom and earthly rules. She was conducting eternal business, finally finding what she had been searching for in every wrong relationship, every failure and every dead end choice. She found Jesus!
This woman began kissing his feet and pouring perfume over them, totally oblivious to the condemning stares, lost in the wonder of His love. The word "kissed" literally means "to kiss again and again." She somehow knew that He understood everything she could not say and loved her in spite of her great sin.
It is very important to notice that Jesus did not move away from her. He did not condemn her nor stop her. Jesus Christ knew exactly why she was there and He was thrilled! He saw her heart and received her humble action as an acceptable gift of worship. Jesus looked past her sin and saw her heart crying out for forgiveness. I love His response to this woman recorded in Luke 7:48 "Then Jesus said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven'." The verb tense of "forgiven" indicates that this forgiveness of sin was completed in the past, continues through the present and will keep working in the future.
Forgiveness is our greatest need and God's highest accomplishment, a complete and eternal gift bestowed on those who truly confess their sin.
My prayer for today:
Father, I recognize that I am a sinner in dire need of your forgiveness. I come to you, repenting and turning from the sin that has separated me from you. Thank you for your forgiveness and love. In Jesus' name. Amen.
I recognize the truth that forgiveness demands repentance. I now choose to confess and turn from the sin in my life. I will destroy any paths that might lead to those same sins. I will trust God to forgive me and empower me to keep turning from that sin.
Am I willing to honestly examine my heart and turn away from the sin I have confessed?
Do I really believe that God will forgive me? On what can I base that belief?
What habits, attitudes, and life patterns do I need to eliminate in order to turn from sin?
2 Corinthians 7:10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (NIV)
Lamentations 3:40 Instead, let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn again in repentance to the LORD. (NLT)
2 Peter 3: 9-10 The Lord isn't really being slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and everything in them will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be exposed to judgment. (NLT)
Radically Obedient, Radically Blessed by Lysa TerKeurst
Learning to Live Right from Women Who Lived Wrong by Mary Southerland
P31 Woman Magazine by Proverbs 31 Ministries
Originally published Friday, 26 March 2004.