Has anyone ever prayed this, ... or perhaps thought this, ... of yourself?
"God, you know I love you, but I consider myself a bad person in so many areas of my life." "I sometimes have wicked thoughts and desires." "There is so much anger and bitterness in my heart." "I know I've been forgiven, my sins being washed away by the blood of Jesus, confirmed by what is written in Your word:
1John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
And in 1John 2:1, "... And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world."
1. Advocate: An attorney. One who pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court.
2. Propitiation: "Propitiation means the turning away of wrath by an offering; placating or satisfying the wrath of God by the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
"So yes, God has forgiven me". "But, How do I forgive myself?"
"How many of us have an easier time forgiving others than forgiving ourselves?"
"How do I forgive myself for all my sinful thoughts and oftentimes actions?" "How can I possibly be used by God, righteous and Holy, as bad as I am, or
as bad as I perceive myself to be?"
Again, does anyone have a problem with forgiving yourself, even though God has forgiven you? That, you are your own worst critic and judge?
The Bible does instruct us to judge ourselves, that we not be judged.
But, it also instructs us to forgive ... which includes forgiving ourselves.
Does anyone here keep doing things he or she doesn't want to do, knowing they are wrong in God's sight?
(ex) Withholding from giving to the church or to those who are less fortunate,
even though we may have money to spare?
(ex) Looking at a woman or a man with lustful thoughts?
(ex) Pursuing hobbies to excess at the expense of pursuing God?
(We can all think of examples of what we are not supposed to do or think)
-- Many of us know Christians or even the Christian we see when we look in the
mirror who have this problem. And it appears we're in good company ...
The Apostle Paul may have had similar issues ... when he wrote this in Romans chapter 7:
"But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire ..." Rom 7:8
"For what I am doing, I do not understand. (In other words, why am I doing or thinking this because I know it's wrong in God's sight) "For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do." Rom 7:15
"For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”Rom 7:19-20
"For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man (spiritual man). But I see another law in my members (in his fleshly man), warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. Oh wretched (wicked) man that I am!" Rom 7:22-24
That there is a battle raging between our spiritual man vs. fleshly man.
In his book, The Spiritual Man, Chinese brother Watchman Nee warns us that
the Battleground is in the Mind. Satan delights in attacking our minds probably more than attacking our physical bodies. Which is why we must keep on the whole armor (Eph 6), but especially the 'Helmet of Salvation.' The 'Helmet' helps protect our head, but also our mind, located within our head, from wicked thoughts and desires.
Examples of wicked thoughts
1. "Why do I find myself attracted to that man or that woman? I'm married and a Christian!" "But, maybe God will overlook it, if it only happens once or twice?"
2. "Why am I so envious of my neighbor's new car? "How can he afford to have it but I can't!" "Should I scratch his car to get even with him?" "Then, it won't look so shiny and new!"
3. "I can't stand my boss". "I really hope something bad happens to him". "I just wish I could get away with just once, beating him to a pulp!"
4. "I'm home alone." "Who will know if I watch that pornographic movie?" "It's just one time." "It's not such a big deal."
Question #1: When Paul says, " Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me," ... is he using the excuse for his thoughts or actions which so many Christians use by saying: "The devil made me do it!"
Answer: No. But what he is saying is that sin, by nature, is part of our flesh ... and in direct opposition to the spiritual man's desire to remain obedient and pleasing to God. Every human being is born into sin because of Adam and Eve's disobedience that occurred in the Garden.
Question #2: Is a wicked thought considered sin, IF not accompanied by action?
Answer: Over the years, I've asked this question of fellow believers and even some pastors. Some have answered, NO. And some have said, YES.
So, if there is a controversy, we look to the Bible for clarification:
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:27-28,
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
***This is the only passage I found in scripture that states just thinking about something unlawful or wicked... about a woman or a man with lust in your heart ... is the same as engaging in the sinful act of fornication or adultery.
In Matthew 15:19, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies."
In other words, wicked thoughts originate in the mind, then seep into the heart. When they mature and ferment in the heart, these wicked thoughts can then lead to actions. It's the actions that are sinful ... And sin produces death. The thought itself does not appear to be considered sin ... except for what Jesus said in Matt 5.
In James 1:14-15, we read: "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."
Explanation: So, a wicked thought enters the mind, then seeps into the heart.
If that thought is not immediately renounced and covered by the
blood, it percolates and matures in the heart, and becomes a desire.
If that person continually thinks about that desire, it very often
becomes overwhelming, which could then lead to taking action,
giving birth to sin. The fleshly man becomes satisfied ... but the
spiritual man is grieved.
Example: (Share story about the music pastor and church secretary committing adultery).
Billy Graham once said: "The Bible tells that sin’s pleasure is only for a season (Hebrews 11:25). Then it’s over, leaving us bitter, and finally destroying us. A day of reckoning always comes. The Bible says, “Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23).
COMMENT: Had this pastor heeded the words from Prov 5:15-20, his desire for the church secretary might not have matured into sinful action:
"Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well ... let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love. For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman, and be embraced in the arms of a seductress?"
(He should have immediately renounced his lustful thought before it matured into an overwhelming desire ... which led to a sinful action).
So, isn't this why God's word tells us in Jer 17:9,
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"
And that His word admonishes us:
1) In 2Cor 10:5" ... bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."
2) In Prov 16:3 "Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established."
3) And in Phil 4:8 "Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate (think) on these things."
So, getting back to the title of this message: "Forgetting those things which are behind."
(1) What if you had been that pastor or church secretary? (By the way, both were relieved of their duties by the senior pastor and church board).
(2) Or, what if a wicked thought percolated in your heart to the point where it actually matured into a sinful action?
Many believers think, "Well, that can't happen to me"! But, it may not be an act of fornication or adultery ... it can be ANY sinful act of which God disapproves. If a person thinks, "It can't happen to me," then why is it written in Gal 6:1-3,
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted, ... For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself". (In other words, deceiving themselves as being super human and above temptation)
or, (3) Though we know God's Word tells us He is faithful to forgive if we repent of the sin and ask Him for forgiveness, some believers still ask ...
--- HOW DO WE FORGIVE OURSELVES?
--- HOW DO WE PUT AWAY THE FEELING OF GUILT AS TO HOW WE