Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Last week we examined a number of instances of people caught up in sin who reacted in several different ways. Sorrow that was superficial or immobilizing and consequently counter-productive, or deeply felt motivation for change. This week we will try to understand why some people become totally consumed by the consequences of their sin while others pick up the pieces – repentant and humbled – yet able to make a difference, finding inspiration in the process.
Godly sorrow acknowledges God as the highest authority, accepts moral absolutes relating to right and wrong and the guilt of sin. This then fosters an expectation of something better after sorrow and repentance has been expressed and every effort made to right the wrong. With worldly sorrow, the guilty party often has a hard time accepting responsibility. “I couldn’t help myself.” – “He or she made me do it!” (Remember Adam and Eve?) “I couldn’t control myself ” – “The devil made me do it!” (When in reality he can’t make you do anything. Sometimes we just want to do wrong more than we want to be right.) Worldly sorrow does not wholly acknowledge God as the highest authority, moral absolutes, God’s claim on our lives or the benefit of repentance, forgiveness, and restitution; being unable then to face an angry God they feel is intent only on punishment and revenge.
Judas expressed sorrow in returning the betrayal money, but killed himself. He didn’t really believe in or rely on God’s love and forgiveness, his despair driving him to death at his own hands. On the other hand, Peter became a pillar of the church, getting beyond his betrayal by expressing heart-felt remorse, accepting the love of God in forgiveness and then resolving to do his best with the remaining years of his life; succeeding beyond his wildest dreams. Did he forget his cowardly behavior regarding his Savior? Certainly not. I believe he used it as inspiration to continually re-evaluate his purpose in life, which spurred him on to more closely walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Paul became a world-renowned missionary by looking beyond all else and seeing Jesus. Does that mean he easily forgot his guilt in sin? No. He acknowledged it, asked forgiveness and cleansing from it and dedicated himself to making a difference in the lives of people he may have hurt and in the lives of everyone else he encountered. He was able to say in full confidence that, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trust-worthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:12-16 Ananias and Sapphira; absolutely wrong, experienced absolute fear and were punished quickly and absolutely. Evidently showing no remorse and unable to respond as Simon the sorcerer had in real, fearful sorrow – as he cried out “Pray for me!”; inferring repentance and a resolve to behave differently in the future. (Although some extra-biblical traditions hold that Simon later followed Peter to Rome, still confused and not completely repentant, preaching “another gospel” than that preached by Peter – possibly a Gnostic interpretation of Jesus’ life and teachings. Critics of the established church later characterizing the buying and selling of indulgences and church offices as Simony in his “memory”.) The difference is that one allows cleansing – letting go, going on, being grateful and motivated by love to really appreciate and make the most of another chance. The other corrupts – in resentment and envy or excuse-making and paralyzing fear.
So then, as long as I’m sorry – really sorry for my sin and wrong-doing, everything’s OK – right? Not necessarily. There are always consequences to our actions, even when we’re truly sorry. Even after repentance and a vigorous pursuit of a different lifestyle? Why should I still have to suffer the consequences of a sin I want to forget? At times, for that very reason. If it’s easily forgotten, it’s more easily repeated. We seem to learn best and remember most when we know the certainty of the outcome, reinforcing our desire to not repeat it. We can then exemplify to others not only the consequences of sin but the grace to be had in living through it as opposed to getting out of it. With some sin, long-lasting consequences are just inevitable. Smoking, drinking, drugs, extra- or pre-marital sex, fighting, stealing, lying, gossiping, etc. will exact a price from you; either in the present or the here-after. Some of the consequences, such as disease, crippling hurt, jail time, broken trust, loss of respect and ruined dreams may very well be with you as long as you live; or be inflicted on the person you’ve sinned with or against. That’s why it is so important to think before you act, question before you participate. Is this something Jesus would approve? Is there value in what I’m about to do? Can I take pride in this while I’m doing it or will I feel the need to sneak around and hide?
Where are you in comparison to these responses? Have you ever had to say, “I’m sorry”? Did you mean it? Were you really sorry for what you did and who you did it to, for the pain and trouble it caused? Do you understand the underlying cause of sin; greed, envy, jealousy – the selfishness in your heart which at times explodes into actions and reactions that are less than what we are capable of and called to be? Do you realize God can and wants to totally forgive, and will do so (Psalm 103:12); if you repent, return to a lifestyle based on his example and teachings and resolve not to repeat your sin? Remember, “... God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 As, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 We can rejoice in the certainty that Jesus wants us to live well in the here-and-now, giving us the wisdom to do so while ensuring a here-after that we can only imagine!
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Fred Price - married (49 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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