Journey with Abraham and Sarah to discover how living fully dedicated to God fits into His purposes in the world.
When we reflect on our moral failures, we may wonder what God thinks of us and fear that God may not accept us. Perhaps you can relate to some of the following remorseful statements of Tommy.
“Chaplain, I lost my faith in Vietnam. In fact, I thought God died in Vietnam. Now, I’d like to believe in God. I really want to have a relationship with God. Yet, I’m so afraid.”
“Of what are you afraid, Tommy?”
“That God will reject me. After Vietnam, I made a mess of my life. One huge mistake after another. No one, including God, could forgive me.”
“Tommy, so you think that your mistakes are greater than God’s power to forgive?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Well, I’ll share with you what someone once told me. I was once told that when I refuse to accept God’s forgiveness for my wrongdoing, I am usurping God’s position of pardoning sinful behaviors. When I refuse to believe that God desires to forgive me, I am really telling God that God’s loving mercy is not powerful enough to forgive me.”
“Wow. I never thought of how I am limiting God when I fear God is not able to forgive me and accept me.”
Over time, Tommy learned to see God as a loving, heavenly parent who longs to embrace us and assure us of complete forgiveness, mercy, and love when we seek it. In the Bible, we have a beautiful story of a waiting father. In this account, when the father saw his son returning home, his son surely didn’t look like he did when he left home. He didn’t smell like he did when he left home. When the father saw the son, he overcame the hurtful things that were said when the son left. He forgave the wasted resources. The father’s love prevailed through all the lonely, heartbroken days while the son was away. He rejoiced that his son was safe and home! When the son humbly approached his father’s home and the father saw him, the father ran swiftly in excitement to meet him and he kissed him repeatedly. Why all the excitement? Because the father had carried this boy in his heart since he left home. Now, he didn’t have to hold a memory, he could embrace the reality. His prayers had been answered, and he ran to meet his son. He hugged him and kissed him over and over again!
When we take a step of faith toward God, it is as if God responds by taking a great leap toward us. An ancient eastern proverb says: “Who draws near to me an inch, I will draw near to him a mile; and who so walks to meet me, I will leap to meet him!” James 4:8 puts it this way, “Come near to God, and he will come near to you.”
Readings from the Old Testament / Hebrew Scriptures
God desires us to confess our wrongdoing.
When you are guilty, you must confess the sin.
There is a positive outcome when we confess our wrongdoing to God.
“Yes, I have sinned,” Saul replied. “I disobeyed the LORD’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of my men and did what they wanted. But now I beg you, forgive my sin and go back with me, so that I can worship the LORD.”
1 Samuel 15.24,25
Apart from God, our hearts are wicked.
Sin speaks to the wicked deep in their hearts;
they reject God and do not have reverence for him.
As a result of God’s forgiveness and mercy, we are urged to follow the teachings of God’s Law and obey them always.
How can young people keep their lives pure?
By obeying your commands.
With all my heart I try to serve you;
keep me from disobeying your commandments.
I keep your law in my heart,
so that I will not sin against you.
I praise you, O LORD; teach me your ways.
I will repeat aloud all the laws you have given.
I delight in following your commands
more than in having great wealth.
I study your instructions;
I examine your teachings.
I take pleasure in your laws;
your commands I will not forget.
Be good to me, your servant,
so that I may live and obey your teachings.
Open my eyes, so that I may see
the wonderful truths in your law.
I am here on earth for just a little while;
do not hide your commands from me.
My heart aches with longing;
I want to know your judgments at all times.
Readings from the New Testament
By sacrificing himself for us, Christ cleared all of our wrongdoing.
For when we were still helpless, Christ died for the wicked at the time that God chose. It is a difficult thing for someone to die for a righteous person. It may even be that someone might dare to die for a good person. But God has shown us how much he loves us—it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us! By his blood we are now put right with God; how much more, then, will we be saved by him from God’s anger! We were God’s enemies, but he made us his friends through the death of his Son. Now that we are God’s friends, how much more will we be saved by Christ’s life! But that is not all; we rejoice because of what God has done through our Lord Jesus Christ, who has now made us God’s friends.
Sin came into the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race
because everyone has sinned. There was sin in the world before the Law was given; but where there is no law, no account is kept of sins. But from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, death ruled over all human beings, even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam did when he disobeyed God’s command.
Adam was a figure of the one who was to come. But the two are not the same, because God’s free gift is not like Adam’s sin. It is true
that many people died because of the sin of that one man. But God’s grace is much greater, and so is his free gift to so many people through the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ. And there is a difference between God’s gift and the sin of one man. After the one sin, came the judgment of “Guilty”; but after so many sins, comes the undeserved gift of “Not guilty!” It is true that through the sin of one man death began to rule because of that one man. But how much greater is the result of what was done by the one man, Jesus Christ! All who receive God’s abundant grace and are freely put right with him will rule in life through Christ.
So then, as the one sin condemned all people, in the same way the one righteous act sets all people free and gives them life. And just as all people were made sinners as the result of the disobedience of one man, in the same way they will all be put right with God as the result of the obedience of the one man.
Law was introduced in order to increase wrongdoing; but where sin increased, God’s grace increased much more. So then, just as sin
ruled by means of death, so also God’s grace rules by means of righteousness, leading us to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We all have sinned; we can’t kid ourselves.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us. But if we confess our sins to God, he will keep his promise and do what is right: he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing. If we say that we have not sinned, we make a liar of God, and his word is not in us.
1 John 1.8-10
Christ is our advocate when we seek God’s forgiveness.
I am writing this to you, my children, so that you will not sin; but if anyone does sin, we have someone who pleads with the Father on our behalf—Jesus Christ, the righteous one. And Christ himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven, and not our sins only, but also the sins of everyone.
1 John 2.1-2
Thoughts for Reflection
When is it easy to be honest with yourself and with God about your mistakes and bad judgments? When is it more difficult?
What things in your life bring about a feeling of guilt? What do you do with this guilt? What do you think would happen if you talked with God about these things, asking God to forgive you?
The Bible teaches us that God will not reject you when you confess your wrongdoing to God. Write about your personal and private reaction to that statement.
Draw or paint a picture or describe your image of God embracing you as a beloved child.
Dear God, when I do wrong, many times I want to hide, just like Adam and Eve hid from you. I want to hide from you and everyone else. In fear, I want to run away and deny what I’ve done. Yet, I cannot hide from you.
You know my heart, my life, and all that I have done. You do not expect me to be perfect, but instead to trust your mercies which are new each morning.
Please, help me to trust you. Help me understand that you know all about me, and that you love me in spite of my wrongdoing.
In your loving name. Amen.
Thoughts for Reflection
<ol> <li>Do you believe that you need an answer from God for your own suffering and despair?</li> <li>Write or share why you feel this way. And when you have no answers to your despair, how do you react?</li> <li>What is most comforting for you when you despair without answers?</li> <li>Describe these things. Like the psalmist, write a lament to God in which you cry out your frustrations.</li> </ol>