I’ve been thinking. There are exceptions but as human beings, if we are honest, we are generally a wicked set of people who tend to think the very best of ourselves.
This is ironic but it is a hallmark of typical humanity: Do the worst yet think the very best of ourselves. Act wickedly but then say we meant well or had good motives or that so-and-so made us do it.
Proverbs 21:2 describes this condition perfectly, when it states, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.” Proverbs 16:2 similarly states, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits.”
Because every way that we take is right and justified in our eyes, when we do wrong, typically, we find it hard to admit it, pretend we didn’t do it, ignore or dismiss it, tell ourselves that at least it is not as bad as what so-and-so did, convince ourselves that the person or people we wronged deserved it, gloss over it flippantly, thinking that because it is us and we are so special and we have done so much for people and even for the Lord, that God will excuse it, especially if what we did was against someone that we and everybody else considers, to not be very important.
In light of our thinking, we refuse to spend quality time dealing with our wrong, acknowledging it for what it is, admitting that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), refuse to accept that our actions were inexcusable and refuse to repent sincerely, humbly and even tearfully to God about it.
We think: Surely God did not mean me to be included in that Jeremiah 17:9 verse! Surely he meant so- and-so but surely, not me!
For us, therefore, the show continues on as normal. No need for genuine heartfelt, humbling repentance. No need to show that we are penitent in our behaviour, to the person or people that we have wronged. After all, it’s us and we think that God holds the same level of respect for us, as society does of us.
We sin grievously and then operate flippantly, all the time thinking in our wicked, self-righteous, pride-filled hearts: God knows who I am. Do you know who I am?
Yes, we actually expect God to respect us. After all, everybody else does. Look at how important a position we occupy in society! Look at how many people think highly of us and love us! Just the other day, someone was singing our praises, saying how nice a person we are and what we did for him or her. Surely, we are too important, have too much calibre are too high up the ladder of importance and recognition and certainly too influential, to be expected to stoop before God in repentance, to call a spade a spade, to spend quality time reflecting on and weeping over our sin!
In Joel 2:12-13 and 17, God instructed the Israelites:
- “…turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil…Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach…”
Yet, we say, not so Lord. For we are too proud and self-righteous to weep. We still think too highly of ourselves to stoop to the level that God wants us to.
We convince ourselves that the issue is not very important or that so-and-so may have been offended by our actions and we may have hurt him or her yes but what? He or she is not as important, hasn’t done as much as we have, doesn’t have a pristine a past as we have and we did put out some level of effort, that he or she should have had enough common sense to figure out is our way of sort of saying sorry. If after we’ve extended the grapevine, so to speak, in a sort of indirect or coded way (because in our pride, we simply cannot do otherwise), then if he or she still considers it an issue, then that is his or her business. It is not our problem.
Deep down, we haven’t genuinely repented of our wrong and of our pride (although we may have said a prayer with our lips) and so we really don’t care. Life goes on and we are satisfied that everybody knows that we are lovely and have a reputation to be sweet, nice, giving people. So what if he or she got to see another ugly side of us? Once everyone continues to think of us favourably, we are good and God must be good.
But is He?
In response to that nagging question, we tell ourselves: Yes, yes, I know God saw me when I sinned against that person or people or did what I did but he too knows and understands that I am important, so he wouldn’t make a big deal about it.
We then flip the roles skillfully (anything to enable us to excuse ourselves) and say that the issue is that the person just needs to forgive.
We say this, although we’ve never expressed verbally that we’re sorry or really tried to reach out to the person meaningfully and have never truly humbled ourselves under the mighty hand of God over the issue and repented.
We say this, not because we have perceived that the person has any issue with forgiveness but because our wicked hearts refuse, in pride, to repent. It is therefore easier to point a finger at the very person we sinned against, to avoid pointing it at ourselves.
Imagine, we did the wrong but yet have the audacity to throw accusations at the person we wronged. We will do anything to cover self, to excuse self to move on from what self finds uncomfortable to address within self.
It is not necessarily that the person does not have love or is not loving (as we are wont to say). It could very well be that OUR own hateful actions, malice and bad behaviour, which were not at all loving, have hurt the person so much, that he or she may need time to process things, to heal and then to forgive. It may be that he or she has forgiven but is now moving cautiously around us because of fear of being hurt again by us or because OUR actions have created such tension even after forgiveness, that it is difficult for the person to relate with us, as if nothing happened or it may take some time before that tension or awkwardness can be removed.
If we have loving hearts, we ought to consider all of these possibilities and be understanding. If we are not loving however or don’t love as much as we ought, we will not. We will be impatient and want to demand that the person quickly behaves how we want him or her to behave. In our lack of love or not loving enough, we will turn on the person and through projection, accuse him or her of not having love. Our wicked and deceitful hearts will do anything to move on, to make self not feel uncomfortable over what self has done because we refuse to humble ourselves so as to properly address the issues within ourselves and face up to the sober truths about ourselves.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5 lets us know that charity exercises patience and demonstrates kindness but on this matter that makes us look bad, we do not. The verses state, “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.”
In any event, despite our inner reasonings, which, despite how much we have sinned, always tend to lean on the side of justifying self, the Word of God tells us in Romans 2:11: “For there is no respect of persons with God.” Colossians 3:25 also tells us “But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.”
We cannot therefore, hoodwink, bribe or manipulate God. We can do this with people but not with Him.
In Ezekiel 11:5, Ezekiel the Prophet was told by the Spirit of the Lord to tell the children of Israel: “…for I know the things that come into your mind, every one of them.”
One example of our hearts being deceitful and desperately wicked, just as the Bible declares, is evident when we DELIGHT in bad news (whether true or rumoured to be true), go eagerly and SPREAD it, hoping to get ourselves attention as the bearer of the shocking news and to feel that we are so much better and more holy and righteous than the person involved or that we have company in our misery because we did similarly or worse or have our issues as well and to at least do some level of damage to the person’s reputation or at least his or her estimation in the eyes of others.
We GIVE OUR THOUGHTS on the issue with those we have gossiped to and are downright nasty in our assessment, using the opportunity to get back at the person for something that he or she did to us or our loved ones, which we never really forgave them for and therefore, now see this situation as the perfect opportunity to settle the score or to take the person down a notch and we also INVITE AND ENTERTAIN viewpoints, discussions, ridicule and further badmouthing from the persons whom we have shared the news with, as if we, a bunch of gossipers are authorities on the matter.
Then, after we have done all of that and created all of that damage, mindful of our duty to pray for the person in love, we HYPOCRITICALLY GO AND MUTTER SOMETHING TO THE LORD, WHICH WE CALL PRAYERS AND PURPORTEDLY ON THE PERSON’S BEHALF, not from the heart but from the head and not because we really want the situation to change and the person to be healed or victorious but because we need to appease our wicked consciences with the fact, that we have done our part, been ‘good’ and ‘faithful’ because we have ‘prayed’. Whether God has even bothered to listen to such prayers, I sincerely doubt. For, he knows that our hearts are full of malice and that our prayer, given all the damage we made sure to do first, is not sincere.
When it comes to the wrong that WE have done, the offence that WE have created and the sin that WE have wickedly committed though, whether it be gossip or otherwise, we will not be allowed to just excuse it, dismiss it, generalize it and quickly move on from it, without truly and genuinely repenting for what we’ve done.
To genuinely repent means:
- To ACCEPT FULL RESPONSIBILITY for what we have done and to be utterly ashamed of it;
- To see nobody else and what they have done or are doing but OURSELVES ONLY before God and the ugliness of what WE have done;
- To not downplay what we’ve done or fish for excuses to minimize its severity but to agree that we have been unjustifiably wicked and that OUR OFFENCE IS GREAT before God;
- To humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and see ourselves for what we are – SINFUL WRETCHES;
- To call the offence for what it is, SPECIFICALLY, instead of referring to it in general terms because we find it hard to deal with and want to avoid feeling guilty and ashamed;
- To ASK GOD FOR FORGIVENESS for what we have done (specifically), although we know we don’t deserve it;
- To be determined due to all the trouble and hurt we caused and how GRIEVOUSLY WE SINNED against that person, people and God, to try our very best to never do it again.
To truly repent, we will agree that we have been wicked, that we have been malicious, that we have sinned, that we have been selfish, that we are without excuse, that we did a really bad thing, that WE created the problem through our own disobedience, rebellion and lack of love and that WE HAVE EVERY REASON TO BE ASHAMED AND TO FEEL GUILTY FOR WHAT WE HAVE DONE AND THE SIN THAT WE HAVE COMMITTED.
If we aren’t prepared to accept the gravity of the sin that WE committed, how are we going to ever properly repent for it?
We would delude ourselves to think that we can just sin with importunity (e.g. say whatever we want with our lips, badmouth whoever and ridicule whoever) and then say that the person or people we targeted just need to forgive, thinking that this will somehow rid us of the consequences for OUR actions.
It doesn’t work like that. God is the Judge, he has said in his Word that vengeance is His and sometimes, even after a person has genuinely repented, he STILL decides to mete out consequences for the actions of those who committed the offence.
This is one of the reasons why sin should be avoided at all costs.
I should know. I have sinned against people and God in grievous ways in the past and although I genuinely repented, I was still made to bear some excruciatingly painful consequences for my wicked actions. Me hurling any accusation at the ones I offended, to the effect that they needed to forgive (which was not the main thought on my mind because I was truly repentant), did not in any way excuse my wicked actions or that I was STILL ACCOUNTABLE before God for what I did. Me being genuinely sorry for what I had done and repenting before God, did not mean that he would just leave me without consequences for my actions and I would get of scot-free.
As human beings, we may paint ourselves in favourable hues but God knows us inside out. If we are honest, like Paul, we will humbly conclude: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:18).
Until we get to this place where we realize the truth of Paul’s statement, we have not truly repented. Until we empty ourselves of ourselves and humble ourselves, we are deluding ourselves.
For, despite the facade of piousness we like to wear, we are not inherently good as some misleadingly tend to think of humanity but evil. “…we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” in God’s sight. (Isaiah 54:6). It is only through God’s longsuffering, grace and mercy, that he puts up with any of us but alas, he does not put up for ever.
Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, once said in Ecclesiastes 7:7, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” In 1 Kings 8:46, in his prayer to God (which God heard, was pleased with and answered), Solomon, in asking for mercy and forgiveness for Israel if they sinned but returned to God in genuine repentance, honestly stated, knowing that he was included in the statement as well,“…for there is no man that sinneth not.”
This is the sobering reality. This is the stark truth. There is no man alive or that has ever lived (other than Jesus Christ, the Son of God who lived a perfectly righteous life), who has never sinned or does not sin.
No wonder Paul (a believer and therefore a Christian) said, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 7:24-25).
Incidentally, despite all his God-given wisdom, Solomon too went on to sin grievously against God, the enemy using his love of women to turn his heart away from God.
We are such pathetic sinners, every one of us, that no wonder Romans 3:19 tells us, that all of us have been declared guilty before God. We are all in need of a Saviour! From the unregenerate vile sinner in the streets to the blood-washed sinner made saint in the pews, we need the Lord Jesus and need his cleansing power in our lives. We need to be humble enough to acknowledge who we are, to be honest with God and to have repentant hearts.
Contrary to popular belief, repentance is not just for the unsaved man. It is for the saved man as well. David knew this quite well. He was a man of God but he was also a man of repentance. The unsaved man needs to repent unto salvation but the saved man is in need of repentance as well, to have restored fellowship with God and his people and to benefit from his continued mercy, blessings and favour.
If we have never come to Jesus in faith and repented of our sins, believing in his resurrection and confessing him as Lord, then we are carving out a path to righteousness, our own righteousness but that path does not lead to salvation and access to God’s heaven but to hell.
If we have initially repented and accepted Jesus Christ into our hearts by faith, then as Christians, God expects us to have not just a prayer life but also a repentant life. That is, he wants us, when we mess up, not to ignore, dismiss or belittle it because of who we are in our proud little minds but to humble ourselves before him, truly humble ourselves before him, be honest about our wicked ways and repent.
In 2 Chronicles 7:14, God stated:
- “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
1 John 1:8-10 states:
- “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
This confessing of sin does not mean for the Christian, to pile all of our sins together and just go to God in prayer and say, “Lord please forgive us wherever we have sinned” or “Lord, please forgive us for all of our sins”. No. That again is a tactic of our proud hearts, to avoid humbling ourselves before God and to avoid being honest with him and to face ourselves and admit that we acted despicably in relation to a particular sin. We prefer to generalize and lump all of our sins together and ask the Lord to forgive us of our sins (plural) because we want to avoid owning up to the shamefulness of the specific sins we committed. To do so, would mean that we would actually need to humble ourselves and admit that we are vile sinners, wretches, pathetic and undeserving of God’s grace and favour.
Yet, God wants us to repent even as David repented. This requires us to keep short accounts with God and when we have sinned in a particular area and God brings conviction, we are to go to him about that specific sin and to name it.
With hearts that are grieved and genuinely sorrowful for what WE have done, we must go to God and say something to the following effect:
“Father in heaven, I admit that I did this or that (naming the sin) and that I was wrong and that this specific thing I did was sinful. I have no justification for why I did it. I was wicked in my actions and I am genuinely sorry for what I did and the pain that I caused because I sinned against you first and foremost and against (name the person or people). I stand guilty before you and without excuse, in relation to this specific thing (name the sin) I did. I humbly ask you for your forgiveness and cleansing power, in Jesus’ name. I intend to turn away from this specific sin that I did and ask that you help me not to ever do it again. Please help the person (people) that I wronged to forgive me as well and help him or her (them) to heal from the sin that I admit I did against him or her (them).”
If we truly repent and in a manner acceptable to God, we will not continue on as if we did nothing wrong or nothing that was really bad and that it is therefore business as usual. If we truly repent, then those that we have wronged will see that we have changed (if they are around us). For, we will be careful to consider the fact, that they may still be hurting for what WE have done and will therefore operate, not loftily and self-righteously as some offenders are wont to do but by humbly asking God, who has been merciful to us and graciously forgiven us, though undeserving, to help them to heal and to also forgive us, if they haven’t yet done so. All the while, we will keep in mind and not be quick to dismiss the fact, that it was WE that caused the pain in the first place. We must take responsibility for our wrong and not pretend that we did not create the problem.
If after we’ve prayed and we’ve tried and we’ve tried and we’ve prayed, the one we offended still holds it against us and we’ve not aggravated the situation further (as we are sometimes wont to do) by sinning in additional ways against him or her, like for example, through badmouthing, put-downs, harsh criticism, gossip, jumping to the worst of conclusions without all the facts or engaging wickedly in more behaviour that is calculated to upset, insult, put down or hurt the person and we even went to the person and asked for his or her forgiveness (which the Bible tells us that we should do in relation to a fellow believer when we know that we have done something which offended him or her or he or she feels offended by our actions), then we can feel content to leave the situation in God’s hands and move on. For, we have done all that we can do, he has released us from that sin burden and upon our confession and repentance, his forgiveness means that we are free.
Out of a heart of understanding, compassion and that accepts responsibility for OUR wrong, we will not throw this freedom in the person’s face self-righteously by our words or actions but we will no longer carry the burden of what we did because Jesus requires us to move on. He certainly does not want or intend for us to bear our guilt and shame forever, especially if we repented after he chastened us.
In Hebrews 12:11-13, it reads:
- “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”
(Written on 30th August, 2021, added to thereafter)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be convicting, edifying, beneficial or interesting, you may also be interested in reading the following:
Under the ‘BIBLE-BELIEVING Daughters’ Page:
- Note 21 – ‘Dear Fellow Saints’
- Note 41 – ‘In Me Dwelleth No Good Thing’
- Note 172 – ‘Are You Trying To Establish Your Own Righteousness?’
- Note 188 – ‘Opportunity To Rejoice Or A Reason To Tremble?’
Under the ‘SINGLE Daughters’ Page:
- Note 46 – ‘The Sins Of The Tongue’
- Note 47 – ‘The Sins Of The Tongue (Reloaded)
- Note 48 – ‘Taming The Tongue – What The Bible Says About Gossip’
- Note 49 – ‘Self-inflicted Wounds?’
- Note 105 – ‘Are You Putting Yourself In The Line Of Fire?’
- Note 175 – ‘I’ve Got No Time To Mind Anybody’s Business’
- Note 242 – ‘What Is Repentance?’
- Note 286 – ‘The Stronghold Of Self’
Under the BROKEN Daughters’ Page:
- Note 4 – ‘Once You Repent, There Is Always Hope In Jesus‘
- Note 5 – ‘Forgiveness, The Sea Of Forgetfulness And Freedom’
- Note 22 – ‘After Repentance, Must You Wear A Perpetual Badge Of Shame?’