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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Journey to the Cross - Apologies Are Not Fatal

If you thought confessing to one person was tough, wait until you see the assignment for today. Be brave. I don’t know anyone who has died from giving an apology.


Morning Meditation


Read Romans 5:20-21

Rom 5:20-21 The Message

All that passing laws against sin did was produce more lawbreakers. But sin didn't, and doesn't, have a chance in competition with the aggressive forgiveness we call grace. When it's sin versus grace, grace wins hands down. All sin can do is threaten us with death, and that's the end of it. Grace, because God is putting everything together again through the Messiah, invites us into life — a life that goes on and on and on, world without end.

Quietly ponder the laws of God.
• Are you perfect? Has knowing the laws of God kept you from sinning?
• Relax as you realize that sin doesn’t have a chance in competition with grace.
• Lift your head with honor and let yourself accept God’s grace.
• Like the scripture says, “God is inviting us into life.” Reach out your arms and embrace His invitation to the sweetness of humility.
• Enjoy the fact that our life “goes on and on, world without end.”



Morning Prayer



Ask God for the willingness and courage to apologize or make amends for your mistakes.

• If pride or fear stands in the way, confess to God.

• Tell God your joys, fears, and needs. Praise Him in everything.

• Pray for knowledge of God’s will for you today and the power to carry that out.

• Ask the Holy Spirit to interpret the scriptures you are about to read.



Morning Bible Study



Previously, we made a list of our sins. We confessed to God and to another human being, the nature of those sins. God has graciously forgiven us but we still have a responsibility to the people we have harmed. Peace will be elusive until we have done our very best to apologize or make restitution.

Read Exodus 22:3.
Ex 22:3 NIV A thief must certainly make restitution.

What must a thief do?

Read Exodus 22:3 and Exodus 22:6.

Ex 22:5 NIV If a man grazes his livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in another man's field, he must make restitution from the best of his own field or vineyard.

Ex 22:6 NIV

If a fire breaks out and spreads into thornbushes so that it burns shocks of grain or standing grain or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution.
Many use the excuse, “But it was an accident.”

Better yet, some say, “I was doing the best I could so no one can blame me.”

Even if a mistake is accidental, what are we to do?

If you are still not convinced restitution is necessary, read Numbers 5:6-9.

Num 5:6-9 NIV

When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that person is guilty and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged. But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the LORD and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for him.

When we wrong a man or woman in any way, whom are we being unfaithful to?

• What are we supposed to do?
• If we can’t make restitution to a person, what must we do?


“But wait!” you cry. “We live under grace. The scriptures you quoted were from the Old Testament. Jesus died for our sins. We are forgiven and need do nothing further.”

I understand your argument and used to use it myself. Then I discovered the peace of making amends. Grace is not an excuse to be irresponsible to the people around us. If you doubt this, read a New Testament story in Luke 19:1-10.
Luke 19:1-10 NIV

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today."

So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.'"

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount."

Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost."

What did the people call Zaccheaus?

As Zacchaeus confessed, what did he promise to do?

What was Jesus’ response?


Yes, the word of God is clear. We are supposed to make amends. “Amend” means to change for the better. Our personal journeys require that we constantly change for the better. The nature of an amends can take on many different forms:

If we say something inappropriate, we apologize.

• If we owe someone something, we pay.

• If we break something, we fix it or replace it.

• If our behavior is causing pain, we apologize and change our behavior.


If we choose to ignore this step of faith, never doubt the crippling affect on our spiritual journeys. I beseech you, become willing to make amends. While making amends, keep your head held high and never feel shame. God has already forgiven us. But don’t confuse the act of claiming our grace by holding our heads high with the act of prideful arrogance and sticking our noses in the air.

Did you find yourself wanting to argue, “I’m really a good person. Look at all I’ve done for the world. Surely I’m not bad enough to have to do all of this.” Read Luke 18:9-14.

Luke 18:9-14
He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man.

The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: “Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.”

Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, “God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.”

Jesus commented, "This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself." (from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

Who went home right with God?

• What happens if we walk around with our “nose in the air” with regards to our Christianity?

We can walk in the confidence of grace without the sin of self-righteousness. Read Hebrews 10:14

Hebrews 10:14 NIV

By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.


Our savior has already made us perfect and is in the process of making us holy. Let us cooperate with the process by making amends as soon as we get honest with ourselves and agree with God about our weaknesses.

Application



I had the privilege of hearing the author, Rev. Henry Blackaby, speak. His words will stick with me forever. “Your work for God will be hampered if there is any sin between you and God. Every sin against others is a sin against God.”

He told the story of a Sunday morning in his life and ministry. He and his wife woke up a little late. They were tired and grumpy. He found himself snapping at her. As he went to give his sermon, he felt God telling him not to open his mouth until he had made things right with his wife. Henry quickly found his wife and apologized. He was then able to do the work of his Father.

Take your list of sins:

Beside each sin, write the names of the people harmed by the sin. Be honest and humble, realizing that there is no such thing as a big or little sin.

• Pray about each name, asking God what amend, if any, you owe.

• Be gentle on others and hard on yourself. Focus on yourself and forget any harm they may have done you.

• If you feel a confession is the correct course, be prudent and pray about it. Never harm anyone else with a confession. We don’t have the right to relieve our conscious at the expense of hurting others.

• Amends can be as simple as a hug or apology or as complicated as writing a large check. God will show you the correct way.

• If you are in doubt, call a Christian friend and discuss it.

• Make the amends immediately.

• Remember that amend means to change. God will help you change your future behavior.


At this point, I feel the need to give a warning. This exercise is for our spiritual health. Its success is not dependent on the response of others. Most will respond favorably but some may not. Do what you can and release their reactions into the hands of God. You have no reason to feel defensive or ashamed. Your Savior has already forgiven you.

3 comments:

  1. This was an awesome column on making amends. I can't wait to meet you at the FCWC!
    Blessings,
    Donna

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you Donna! Looking forward to meeting you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is a great post. I just had one of the ‘Doh!’ moments and ran back to correct my own site before publishing my comment. You see my own comment form did not match what I’m about to advice. I get less comment than you, so never noticed any problem. I’ve changed it now anyway so here goes.

    degree home

    ReplyDelete