Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Penchant for Penance

Do you struggle letting go of guilt?  Find it hard to forgive yourself for past mistakes?  Do you feel a deep-seated need to punish yourself for wrongs that you have committed?

I don’t know about you, but I do! 


I look back at the regrets of my past and just can’t seem to let go.  If only I would have listened . . . If only I had made a different choice . . . How could I have been so stupid? . . .


I see my mistakes and beat myself up over them . . . and the self-talk starts.  What an idiot you are?  What were you thinking?  Did you think at all?  You are so impulsive?  Why can’t you have more self-control?  You don’t deserve to be forgiven . . . I long for the guilt and the sorrow to go away but it never quite does.


There is something that whispers deep inside me, “You need to pay the price for what you have done.”  Since the beginning, this has been man’s answer to the sin problem; working to pay off the debt of our sin.  But who can ever pay off such a great debt?  And how do we know it’s ever enough?


Listen to what God’s Word says about our innate need to pay for our sin.


We are all infected and impure with sin.  When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.  Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
Isaiah 64:6


For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23


But God . . .


God saved you by His grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)


In our heart of hearts this free gift seems too good to be true.  Doesn’t it?  How can your sin and mine be so simply forgiven?


That’s the kicker – it WASN’T simple or easy.  A humongous price WAS paid for our sin – Christ’s agonizing death on the cross and powerful resurrection from the dead.  This amazing GIFT is free for the taking and available for ALL of us – the good, the bad and the ugly.


A long time ago, I took God up on His offer of free Grace but still find myself struggling with the need to pay penance for my sin.  I fight to let go of the guilt and battle to forgive myself for what I’ve done. 


BUT, I’ve come to realize that clinging to my guilt and punishing myself is once again falling into the trap that we humans use to solve our sin problem. 


When Christ died on the cross it was FINISHED!  Your sin and mine was COMPLETELY PAID that day.  There is nothing we can do to make it more complete – it is COMPLETE, DONE, FINISHED!


The sobering fact is that when I refuse to forgive myself and try to pay penance for my sin, I’m really declaring that what God did on the cross was NOT ENOUGH for my sin and He needs my help to cover the debt.  My sin is too BIG and too GREAT for His death on the cross to cover.  Really?  Is God is a liar?
Whoever believes in the Son of God inwardly confirms God’s testimony.  Whoever refuses to believe in effect calls God a liar, refusing to believe God’s own testimony regarding his Son.  This is the testimony in essence:  God gave us eternal life; the life is in his Son.  So, whoever has the Son, has life; whoever rejects the Son, rejects life.  1 John 5:10-12


My friend, do you struggle, like me, to forgive yourself of past mistakes?  Have you accepted Christ’s free gift?   Then, receive His grace, let it wash over your soul and relinquish the guilt and burning desire within you to pay penance.  There is no need because God paid it ALL for you! Nothing more is owed!

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