When you make a mistake and someone points it out, what is your first inclination? All too often, we get defensive and justify our actions or we blame someone else instead of take full responsibility.
The Bible is full of this sort of behavior, starting with Adam himself. When he eats the forbidden fruit, he basically blames Eve for giving it to him. And in effect, he blames God for giving him Eve. He never accepts his own responsibility in the situation. How things might have been different if he had repented and gone to God to apologize instead of hiding in the bushes.
The Bible recounts plenty of situations where someone sinned and did not repent. Sometimes it’s one person. Sometimes it’s the whole nation of Israel. I’m not going to go into those stories in detail. It would take too much time. Let’s just say, it doesn’t usually work out to well for those folks. When the Israelites disobeyed God, they lost battles, experienced plagues, and ultimately were defeated and taken in captivity to Babylon.
Instead, I want to focus on what we should do when we sin. Or rather, immediately after we sin. Of course it would be better for us if we never sinned in the first place. And I’m sure there are many times in your life when you have resisted temptation and not given in to doing something you shouldn’t. But there are times when fear or pride rule in our hearts and we break one of God’s commandments, or do not follow His directions in a given situation. What then?
Reluctance to repent
How did King David, a man after God’s own heart, behave when he committed adultery? Not too well. He did the exact opposite of what he should have done. When he learned that Bathsheba was pregnant, he didn’t confess his sins to her husband or the priest and apparently not to God. He knew he had broken God’s law, but he took things into his own hands to hide his sin by arranging the husband’s death in battle.
Just like Adam, David was hiding in the bushes. He was putting on a show that nothing was wrong. Human nature hasn’t changed a whole lot. We do the same thing today.
Enter Nathan the prophet, stage right. God revealed to Nathan what David had done. I find it very interesting that Nathan doesn’t come right out and accuse David of his sin. This could be a hint to us in the way we confront someone about mistakes they have made. He tells of rich man who had many sheep but took the one lamb of a poor man to prepare a feast for his guest. (See II Samuel, chapter 12.)
David could see the injustice of this because he didn’t associate the rich man’s action to his own. He tells Nathan that man should pay back the poor man with four lambs and die for his terrible crime. Nathan says simply, “Thou art the man,” and then rails on him how God had been generous to him with blessing upon blessing and how on earth could he sin so grievously against Him in return.
Sin must be uncovered first
David thought he had covered his tracks. He thought he was going to get away with breaking two of the Commandments: don’t kill; don’t commit adultery. But now his eyes are opened and he finally admits his sin. Nathan exposes what David had tried to hide. This was the first step for David. And so it must be for us. If we have sinned, it must be exposed and we must admit our mistakes instead of covering them up.
The next step is repentance. Real repentance. We have to admit that what we have done is wrong, and accept responsibility for our own actions instead of blaming others or circumstances. David did this and so can we.
David confesses to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan replies, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”
Here’s a simple rule to follow when we sin: repentance, the sooner the better. And repentance allows us to experience God’s forgiveness.
If it’s so simple, why do resist the need to repent? Why do we think we can keep making excuses and cover up our mistakes with self-justification or blaming others? Why? Because we lack humility.
It takes humility to repent, to admit you’re wrong. It takes humility to accept responsibility for your actions and quit blaming someone else. It takes humility to ask God’s forgiveness. But you can do it.
The world says humility is weakness. But the world is wrong. Humility is immense, spiritual strength. Humility is abandonment of relying on yourself and powerful trust in God’s ability to run the show.
When you have disobeyed God
When you have sinned, the quicker you let your natural humility come to the surface in your heart, the sooner you can admit what you have done wrong and repent of it. And the sooner you will feel God’s forgiveness and redemption.
The next, and sometimes hardest step, is to accept God’s forgiveness. If you’ve committed some terrible crime, it might seem harder to accept God’s forgiveness than if you’ve made some minor mistake. It’s all about how genuine your repentance is and how much humility is in your heart.
Jesus did not just forgive people’s sins willy-nilly. He could discern if there had been true repentance. God’s forgiveness is always active and present, but we can’t accept and experience it fully until there is complete repentance in our hearts.
When God forgives you, you are forgiven
Too often, even after we have repented and felt God’s forgiveness, we still carry around a wheelbarrow full of guilt. Let it go already! Jesus’ victory over the crucifixion was a victory over the sins of the whole world. That includes whatever you did wrong thirty years ago or just now. As long as you have repented.
So put down the guilt. God doesn’t require you to carry it with you any more. Accept His forgiveness and be free. This is why God sent Jesus to this earth of ours. Jesus did not live and die in vain. That means forgiveness is a powerful force in your life, here and now, and can wash away all sin and burden of guilt when humility and repentance have set up shop in your heart.
And if God has forgiven you, who are you not to forgive yourself?
Blessings as always,
P.S. I hope you’ve found this helpful. If you know someone who might be helped by it, please share it with them.