Everyone makes mistakes in life, they’re unavoidable. That friend you hurt, those things you said in anger, that careless action which had long-reaching consequences, these things have a way of haunting us. One of the first lessons Christians are taught is how God forgives our shortcomings. When we surrender our hearts to Christ, we receive a grace which makes us holy, blameless, and new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Still, even though God wipes away our sins, many Christians can struggle with forgiving themselves.
Shame can leave us feeling crippled and alone, but God never intended for his followers to be slaves to their past mistakes. Sarah Sciarini, of Relevant Magazine, believes Christians need to learn the art forgiving themselves after coming to God in repentance. Quoting author Brennan Manning, Sciarini reminds readers that God loves us despite our faults, and deeply desires that we live joyfully in the grace he has provided. She writes,
“Taking ownership of your actions helps you to recognize where things have gone wrong and move forward, but letting your actions define you is a life sentence that God never designed for you. It’s not until we realize we are not what we do but who God says we are that we can experience the true freedom grace provides and move on.”
“Psalm 103:10-12 says, ‘He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.’”
“Isn’t it time we believed that?”
Heather Davis Nelson, the author of such books as Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom from Shame, would agree with Sciarini. Moving forward may require we make difficult choices. If we have sinned against someone, we need to ask their forgiveness and endeavor to make things right (Luke 17:3-4). However, we cannot cling to the past out of guilt. Accepting grace means turning everything over to God, something Nelson encourages her readers to fully embrace,
“Do you believe that your worst sin has been separated from who you are as far as the east is from the west? For those who take refuge in Christ, this is the truth about even your most shameful sin—it is no longer a part of you. Other people may remember, and you may remember, but to the one whose remembrance counts for eternity, your sin is nailed to the cross and no longer has power over you.”
All of us have made terrible mistakes, but the good news is these moments don’t have to define us. It’s been said that, “God expects more failure from you than you expect from yourself”. This may seem like a grim portent, but in hindsight, it’s actually comforting. Nothing we have done can ever separate us from the love of Christ.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39
God has forgiven us our transgressions, so who are we to refuse his grace?
What about you? What are your thoughts on overcoming shame and forgiving yourself? Be sure to leave a comment in the space below!
*Ryan Duncan is an Editor for Crosswalk.com
This Halloween, millions of Americans will carve pumpkins, dress up in costumes, decorate their yards, and gobble down the candy they get while trick-or-treating.
America’s preachers also hope they’ll consider coming to church, according to a new phone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
Two-thirds of Protestant pastors say they encourage church members to ask their neighbors to a church-related event like a fall fair or trunk-or-treat.
Half tell their church members to befriend those who trick-or-treat at their doors. Nearly one in 10 tell church members to skip Halloween altogether.
Most pastors see Halloween as an opportunity to reach out, says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
“This is a time when your neighbors literally come to your doorstep,” he says. “Pastors don’t want their church members to waste that chance to make a connection or invite someone to church.”
A major holiday
Halloween has become a major social and retail event in American culture. Seven out of 10 Americans (69 percent) plan to celebrate Halloween this year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). The average American consumer will spend about $83 on candy, decorations and other goodies. That’s up from $74 in 2015.
LifeWay Research found most pastors want church members to take part in the season’s activities as well.
Two-thirds (67 percent) encourage church members to invite friends and neighbors to a fall festival, trunk-or-treat, or judgment house. Pastors at bigger churches (those with 250 or more in attendance) are most likely to ask church members to invite their neighbors (86 percent) to an event at the church. Those from small churches (50 or less in attendance) are least likely (48 percent).
Holiness (82 percent), Baptist (77 percent), Pentecostal (75 percent) and Methodist (73 percent) pastors are more likely to ask their members to invite friends to an event. Lutheran (56 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (55 percent) are less likely.
Little enthusiasm for gospel tracts instead of candy
Only about a quarter of pastors encourage church members to hand out gospel tracts at Halloween, according to LifeWay Research.
In fact, pastors are twice as likely to encourage members to befriend neighbors who trick-or-treat (52 percent) than to tell members to hand out gospel tracts (26 percent). Pastors at larger churches (63 percent) are more likely to want their members to build relationships with trick-or-treaters. Pastors at smaller churches (42 percent) are less likely. Mainline pastors (15 percent) are less likely to ask church members to hand out tracts than evangelical pastors (32 percent). Baptist pastors (47 percent) are most likely to want church members to hand out gospel tracts.
Few pastors (8 percent) want church members to skip Halloween completely. Older pastors (those 65 and over) are more skeptical of Halloween (13 percent) than pastors under 45 (4 percent). African-American pastors (23 percent) are most likely to want church members to avoid Halloween. White pastors (7 percent) are least likely.
Few Americans spooked by Halloween
A 2015 LifeWay Research study found about 6 in 10 Americans say Halloween “is all in good fun.” But about a third say they either skip Halloween altogether (21 percent) or avoid its pagan elements (14 percent).
Self-identified evangelicals are mostly likely to either skip Halloween (28 percent) or skip its pagan elements (23 percent). Nones—those who claim no religious affiliation—are mostly likely to say Halloween is all in good fun (75 percent). Few Nones skip Halloween (11 percent.)
The more people go to church, the more skeptical they are of Halloween. Less than half (44 percent) of those who attend religious services at least once a week say Halloween is all in good fun. Most Americans who only go to church on religious holidays say Halloween is all in good fun (82 percent.)
Most Christians tend to embrace the fun side of Halloween—dressing up in costumes, handing out candy or carving pumpkins—while avoiding its darker elements. So it’s not surprising some churches have turned it into a chance to invite people to church, McConnell says.
With so many people celebrating Halloween, this one day has more interaction among neighbors across America than any other day,” says McConnell. “People actually want to see each other at their doors. So it’s only natural that pastors encourage their congregations to invest in these relationships.”
The phone survey of Protestant pastors was conducted Aug. 22 to Sept. 16, 2016. The calling list was a stratified random sample, drawn from a list of all Protestant churches. Quotas were used for church size. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted by region to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,000 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.2 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.
Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine.
Courtesy: LIfeWay Research News
Liz Kanoy | Editor, Crosswalk.com | Monday, October 24, 2016
You may find it easy to pray every day, or you may find it difficult. Or maybe there are times when sin in your life keeps you from prayer and the guilt weighs you down. If you’re having a hard time focusing on prayer and setting aside time for God, then these reminders will help you fight through the guilt and shame.
Erik Raymond, pastor and writer, has written an article for The Gospel Coalition titled “When Sin Keeps You from Prayer.” Raymond offers 5 reminders for Christians who are stuck in a negative prayer cycle; here are 3 of his reminders:
1. Remember – Sin Always Keeps You from Prayer
When we commit a sin, either an action or thought, we are not thinking about God; we are usually thinking about ourselves. And after we commit a sin, we usually do one of two things: we either react like Adam and Eve and hide aka ignore God and try to move on like nothing happened or we throw ourselves on God’s mercy and ask for forgiveness. But the longer we delay repentance the more guilt we feel, and the more ashamed we become. How can I go to God with this now, when I’ve been holding onto it for so long? Yet, God is waiting for you with open arms and a loving heart.
“Prayerlessness is always a manifestation of sin and its effects. We should never be content to sit in a season of prayerlessness but rather to recognize why we are in it and labor to remedy it.”
It’s like going to the gym, you know it’s good for you but it’s really hard to get there sometimes. And the more times you skip it, the less likely you are to go and the faster you get out of shape. Then you realize it’s been a month since you’ve gone. And a voice in your head says you’re too tired, you have other obligations that are more fun, or you just want to eat that Chic-fil-A sandwich and binge watch Netflix—whatever it is sin can always find an excuse and tempt you to stay away from what’s good for you—what your soul needs.
Memorize this verse:
“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” –Romans 6:14
2. Remember – Prayer Leads You Out of Sin
Sin tries to keep you away from prayer, but prayer is what leads you out of sin. Though you may feel trapped in sin, prayer offers complete freedom and release. Raymond describes it as making contact with a Search and Rescue Team. Whether it feels like you’re stuck on a mountainside or treading water in the sea, you know the only way out is help from someone else. And prayer is that lifeline; God is the only one who can help you when you’re stuck. He asks us to confess and repent in prayer. The result is not what we expect—penance or punishment—but instead mercy and freedom as promised by the gospel.
“Sin, at its core, is pride. Prayer, at its core, is the expression of humility. The only way out of sin is to humble ourselves before God, embrace reality, and plead for mercy and grace. Our hearts our tricky and quite deceptive (Jer. 17:9). We will tell ourselves that we can’t pray because we haven’t been praying. Our flesh will rage against humbling ourselves before God in prayer.”
Memorize this verse:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” –1 John 1:9
3. Remember – Access to Prayer is Not Based on Your Sin Level
God does not weigh your actions and set your sin on a scale to see if you’re worthy of approaching Him. If our sin level mattered, then no one would ever be worthy. But because of Jesus Christ, when God looks at us He sees His Son’s sinlessness life and innocent sacrifice. Therefore, because of the gospel we are free to approach God and communicate with Him.
When Isaiah was brought before the Lord (Isaiah 6), he fell down at his own unworthiness and could not look at God. Isaiah had no merit to earn God’s favor, but through a gift God made Isaiah righteous. Just as God removed Isaiah’s guilt with a burning coal, He removes your guilt with the blood of His Son. This gift is a one-time gift; you are made guiltless in God’s eyes. However, since those saved by Christ still live in a fallen world we will still fall prey to sin. When we pray for forgiveness, it draws us away from sin and closer to God. And when we pray often, we think about sin less.
“We never come to God in prayer reciting our qualifications for approaching him. We don’t tip our hat to our heavenly Father and then run down our resume, “I have not done this and I have done that” (Luke 18:9ff). Never! …When we come in prayer we come as sinners covered in the blood of Christ. Remembering the truth of the gospel and preaching it to our hearts will provoke prayer—even amid personal sin.”
Memorize this verse:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” –Hebrews 4:15-16
Christians know what’s good and what’s bad…our eyes were opened at the moment of salvation—our hearts have been transformed by the gospel. We feel it in our heart when sin tempts us, and we feel our wrongdoing when we follow through with sin instead of resisting. Though we would like to achieve our own perfection, it will never happen. We need to remember that Christ’s perfection is the only one that matters. His sinless life makes it possible for us to be sinless in the presence of a mighty and gracious God.
“It’s been rightly said, sin will keep you from prayer, and prayer will keep you from sin. But it is also true, prayer will lead you out of sin. Sometimes this is hard work. But it is good work. Remember, you are never too sinful to pray when your prayer is one of repentance. Christ is mighty to save, and his grace is greater than all of our sin.”
You can read Raymond’s other two reminders and his full article at TheGospelCoalition.org.
Don’t let sin keep you from prayer. If you haven’t prayed today, or in a while, take 5 minutes today and close your eyes – thank God for who He is and who He has made you to be. Ask Him to forgive any sin in your life, especially the sin that has been holding you back from Him. Let His love pour over you and refresh you.
You are worthy of all praise. You haven given me life even though I am unworthy and undeserving. You have taken my sin and made me guiltless. But right now I don’t feel guiltless, and my shame has made me forget who you made me to be. You have made me your child and heir, and you have given me the greatest gift anyone could ask for—eternal life in your presence. But I have forgotten this in my sin; Lord please forgive this sin and grant me mercy. I do not deserve it, but I thank you that because of your Son’s sacrifice I am freely forgiven and loved. Please grant me your strength to resist this sin and other sins, and Holy Spirit please urge my soul to spend more time in prayer and praise because in your presence is where I truly belong.
In Your name Jesus,
Try praying each day this week for 5 minutes; if you forget, pray as soon as you remember. Then try to up the time to 10 minutes, maybe get up early or set aside time in the evening. Try reading Scripture while you pray or singing a song. Prayer shouldn’t be a check off of your to-do-list, but instead time to really get to know God and meditate on His word and promises. Remember for believers there is no sin that can keep us from God’s presence.
Crosswalk.com Contributor Scott Slayton, recommends praying the psalms in his article: “6 Ways to Reinvigorate Your Prayer Life.”
Christianity.com: How do I know that God hears my prayers?-Will Graham from christianitydotcom2 on GodTube.
Publication date: October 24, 2016