July 20, 2010

To Live is Christ — paying attention the first time

My devotional reading for the past few days has a title “A God of Second Chances.” It focuses on a passage where Moses tells what happened after he came from talking with God to find the people in sin. Outraged, he threw the stone tablets God gave him to the ground.
At that time the Lord said to me, ‘Hew for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and come up to Me on the mountain and make yourself an ark of wood. And I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke; and you shall put them in the ark.’ (Deuteronomy 10:1–2)
God had every reason to destroy the people just as they had broken His laws, yet Moses pleaded for their forgiveness and God gave them another chance. This reminds me of what Jesus said about forgiveness in the New Testament. Both narratives reveal the heart of God. 
Then Peter came to Him (Jesus) and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21–22)
I someone sins against me once, I struggle to forgive them. Yet if I forgive them and they repeat that sin over and over, could I forgive an unlimited number of times? This is what Jesus implies. Also, everything else He said about forgiveness points to this being what God does with my sin — He forgives, repeatedly.

Through the years, how often have I come to God with, “I did it again” in my confession? How long have I struggled with a particular sin, bringing it to God over and over? And how often have I expressed my gratitude to Him for verses like this one?

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Is there a sin too great for God to forgive? Jesus says there is an unforgivable sin. It isn’t clearly described, yet what Jesus does say makes this sound like the sin of denying the Holy Spirit’s witness to my heart. This would be the equivalent of rejecting all that God says, including that I am a sinner and that Jesus is the Savior.

John also speaks in his first epistle of a sin that other Christians do, one that we are not to intercede in prayer for those who do it. This sin is not spelled out either, but there are hints in the New Testament that if a Christian sins repeatedly and hardens their heart toward conviction, God can (and did at times) take their physical life.

In other words, God is patient, forgiving, and endures my foolishness and rebellion, up to a point. He leads me back to Himself over and over. However, I cannot take this for granted. Saying no to God is serious, even though He is a God of second chances.

Proverbs 1:11 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” It is far wiser to heed the commands of God the first time rather than make Him repeat it. He might do that, but only out of mercy. He has every right to do otherwise.

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