Ever had one of those days where it quickly becomes apparent that God is SHOUTING at you?? That was today for me. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been really struggling with getting myself in gear on Sunday mornings & getting to church. It’s actually been WEEKS since we’ve been because, inevitably, when Sunday morning rolls around, I’m so utterly exhausted that the thought of getting up & getting myself & 3 children ready to get to church on time makes me want to vomit. (Exhaustion vomit. Hmm. Wonder if that’s an actual medical diagnosis I could use…)
So this morning I was not planning on going. Steve’s sick, Henry’s sick and I woke up with a sore throat. But, in comes Maggie at 8:30 saying, “Daddy PROMISED we’d go to church today…..” Which, of course, leaves the responsibility for the whole thing dumped nicely on my shoulders. I wrestled with it for a little bit, then decided I would do it. Just me, Mags & Steven would go. So, off we went, arriving only a few minutes late for the Sunday School hour. The service was incredible today. The music was really nice, even though I didn’t know ONE of the five songs they did. Which is really, really unusual. I’m one of the “music people”, so even to find 5 songs that I don’t know would be a chore, so I was quite surprised. They were good songs, though, so that’s cool. Our church is without a senior pastor right now, so the pulpit is being filled by both guests and some of our own teachers. Today was one of our own. Mike is an amazing, amazing man of God. On the surface, he looks like a hard, emotionless, hard-core, military kind of guy. But then he gets up to teach and he is so moved by the Word of God and imparting it to people, that he spends most of his message right on the verge of tears and, occasionally, outright crying. I cannot tell you how moving it is. It isn’t that “emotional” type of crying that seems to be geared toward manipulation. It’s the tears of someone who desperately believes what they’re saying with every single cell in their body & they are desperate & fervent in their desire to make sure you know this truth. The tears of a sinner who cannot believe the grace with which they are received.
Anyway, his message was about forgiveness. Not forgiving one another, but forgiveness from the Father. He talked much about his and our prayer lives. Are they well-rounded? Meaning, are we “using” God in our prayer time for “want, want want, give, give, give, do, do, do, please, please, please” and not spending any time on the “confession” part of the equation? I mean, beyond the whole, “forgive my sins, God” kind of praying we do? Think about how you pray. If you’re like a LOT of Christians, it’s pretty formulaic. “Father, thank you for this day, thank you for our blessings, forgive me for what I’ve done wrong…” and then we launch into our laundry list of wants, needs and intercessions. However, as Mike asserted, if we’re praying like this, how on earth can we expect to live in the full power of God. As the song says, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one…” which can be extrapolated into “Count your many sins, name them one by one.” God will not forgive us for unnamed sins that we can’t even remember, much less admit to. But that’s where we need to be in our prayer life. We need to be on our faces, ASKING God to remind us of what we’ve done to offend Him, WAITING for Him to bring it to us, and then ADMITTING it and asking for forgiveness. He used many examples in his own life of times when he felt that God was distant, unreachable, unanswering. So, he got on his face and asked God to tell him what he had forgotten. And waited. Without fail, God would bring the offense to mind and often it was something that he had either forgotten about completely or hadn’t even admitted to in his own heart. And, he said, it was like there was a big pipe from him to God and the pipe was blocked with this unconfessed sin. The flow from Father to child could not happen as long as the pipe was blocked. That triggered my own analogy.
We’ve been having trouble with our septic lately. Hadn’t pumped the tank in awhile and we had some seepage in the yard from what’s apparently some sort of block in the field that needs to be jetted out. The sin in my life is just like that. My tank gets full and I need to go to the Lord to have him pump it out. But sometimes, there’s a big wad of unconfessed sin that’s stuck there in the line blocking everything. If that doesn’t get taken care of, it gets more & more backed up until it starts seeping out to the surface. Just like a blocked septic line can cause marshy, stinky wet spots in your yard, a blocked “sin line” in your life will cause problems and the “unfruits of the Spirit” as I call them to start making their way to the surface of your life until you’re all stinky, marshy and people stop wanting to be around you. And you’re surrounded by flies.
1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Did you see that first word?? IF.Â I think many times we Christians either expect to be able to ask forgiveness proactively (“Forgive me when I’m naughty”, as STeven prays) or we just want to quickly and anonymously cover everything in one fell swoop. (“Forgive me for the things I’ve done that I shouldn’t have done”) Mike referred to Leviticus 5:4-6:
“Or if a person thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evilâ€”in any matter one might carelessly swear aboutâ€”even though he is unaware of it, in any case when he learns of it he will be guilty. ‘When anyone is guilty in any of these ways, he must confess in what way he has sinned and, as a penalty for the sin he has committed, he must bring to the LORD a female lamb or goat from the flock as a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin. (emphasis mine)
Isn’t that interesting? We are to confess each way we have sinned as we become aware of it. It doesn’t say, “Just burn the lamb for everything you might have done.” Nope. “He must confess in what way he has sinned…” The point being that it’s not the SIN that is the problem. It is the fact that without confessing it, we are separated from the Father. Yes, the sin itself is bad & naughty & we shouldn’t have done it. But that’s not what God’s upset about. He’s upset because that sin separates us from Him and that is not the state of the relationship He wants with us. He cannot be in fellowship with sin. He just can’t. So as long as the sin sits there, He is separated from us and He hates that. And so should we. We should be so craving fellowship with Him that we are ever mindful of what might be separating us from Him and, when we’re not sure, we should be on our faces ASKING HIM what it is. He then talked about how, as a teacher, there are kids who he really has struggled with – who have caused countless problems and who have come right out & told him how much they hate him. His response has been to pray for them because that’s what he thinks he’s supposed to do. But that God revealed to him that praying without truly meaning it is meaningless. God knew that he didn’t mean it when he was praying for this particular kid – and told him so when he asked. But when he admitted that God was right, he HATED this kid and was sorry for that, God opened up the door for him to be able to start to talk with this kid and the blockage was removed.
As he told this story, the floodgates opened. Because I know that there is at least one person in my life for whom I have deep, vicious, soul-gnawing hatred that I have refused to let go of. I know that it’s wrong to feel this way – though I’m excellent at justifying my anger because of the way this person has behaved – but I’ve never admitted my HATRED for this person and how I don’t want to let it go because I feel I cannot forgive. But God never said, “It’s okay to really, really hate somebody if they’ve done some really bad & selfish stuff and behaved like a total *(&$#@”. He never said that. As he was in his last 1/4 of the message, this song by Nichole Nordeman came to mind. Our process of confession & forgiveness and renovation to become more like Him is a lot like an art restoration. It’s long, it’s difficult, it’s painstaking, but the results are amazing.
Bless the day
This restoration is complete
Dirty dusty something must be underneath
So I scrape and I scuff
Though it’s never quite enough
I’m starting to see me finally
A gallery of paintings new and paintings old
I guess it’s no surprise that I’m no Michelangelo
Every layer of mine hides a lovely design
It might take a little patience
It might take a little time
But you called me beautiful
When you saw my shame
And you placed me on the wall
You who have begun this work will someday see
A portrait of the holiness you meant for me
So I polish and shine
‘Til it’s easier to find even an outline of mine
But you called me beautiful
When you saw my shame
And you placed me on the wall
So beautiful. I guess I’ve got me some work to do. I’ve got a lot of blocked lines here in the septic system that is my life and I’m gonna need to do some jetting. Let’s flush those lines and see if we can’t get them moving again, okay?Tweet