History Doesn’t Have to Repeat itself

 

Have you ever been haunted by your past?

Over a decade ago I was preaching during the first worship service and I guess I was all wound up in what I was preaching, because an elder motioned to me that it was time for Sabbath School. I had a real passion for what I was preaching at the moment and basically chastised the elder for telling me to stop. It came across kind of … no it definitely came across as high and mighty and condescending to the elder. The elder quickly ducked out of view of the congregation. I soon realized I did not react appropriately and even made a fool of myself. After church I told the elder I was sorry. He graciously accepted my apology and for the remainder of our time together in that congregation he acted like it never happened. But I had trouble shaking it. Four or five years later, he and I were talking in the hallway, and of course he was acting totally natural, while I was still cringing inside over what I did years ago. As we were talking, the obvious finally dawned on me. He does not even remember what I am cringing about! I am the only one who remembers it! He forgot about it years ago after he forgave me. Why am I holding on to this?  I had to forgive myself then and there, and now I no longer feel awkward when I see him, and, of course, I have never repeated the incident.

It appears in the days of Nehemiah Israel was still haunted by its past, going back to the days of Moses.

But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them,  even when they made an idol shaped like a calf and said, ‘This is your god who brought you out of Egypt!’ They committed terrible blasphemies. Nehemiah 9:17-18 NLT

This came during their time of confession. They are claiming God’s forgiveness but still going over things that happened long ago. The good news is, history does not have to repeat itself. Paul was haunted by his previous actions towards Christians, but he still was able to move on.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:13-14 NLT

Paul was able to get over his past by not continually thinking about it, but also by being sure not to let his history repeat itself. He pressed on to what was ahead instead of repeating what was behind him. When a runner trips over a hurdle she can’t waste time wallowing in self pity. There is no time to lose. She must get back up and run! But she also must make sure she does not trip over any more hurdles. There is no time for self-pity or for tripping over more hurdles.

David made some big mistakes, but we don’t see him making the same mistakes over and over. I think his prayer of repentance in Psalm 51 offers us some clues as to how he moved forward instead of letting history repeat itself.

For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭51:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

So David was haunted by his rebellion just like Israel, and just like I was. Often times we try to ignore negative feelings and emotions but they have their place. Those negative feelings are symptoms telling us a problem needs to be fixed. If we only treat the symptoms then the problem remains and still needs to be fixed.

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. Psalms‬ ‭51:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

David recognized that He hurt God. He is not sorry that he hurt himself. He is sorry he hurt God and others.

Forgive me for shedding blood…Psalms 51:14 NLT

David’s confession is specific, just like Israel’s in Nehemiah 9.

At the Christian school where I occasionally substitute teach, one of the classrooms uses what is called a fix-it ticket. When students do something inappropriate,  students writes down on a piece of paper exactly what they did wrong, and how they are going to fix that form of behavior. They sign the paper themselves, and then the teacher signs it and the student takes it home for the parents to sign. In Psalms 51 David appears to be writing a fix-it ticket. He is writing specifically about what he did wrong and also how the problem is going to be fixed. A while back I had an attitude that I knew was not right. I wrote a letter to God telling him specifically why I was wrong and asked for Him to help me in specific ways not to have that attitude any more. I have never had that attitude since.. I believe that actually writing things out, not typing but actually hand writing things out can be very therapeutic. If nothing else it shows God and ourselves that our repentance is earnest, rather than just giving a flippant “Please forgive me. I’m sorry.”

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭51:1, 7, 10, 12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We don’t see David repeating his history over and over because his repentance and confession were very specific and very deep. David realized and openly confessed his own weaknesses and how he was prone to sin.

For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. Psalms 51:5 NLT

Therefore instead of being self-confident David put his confidence in God’s powerful love and promises. We too can keep our sinful history from continually repeating itself by making our repentance deep and heartfelt, and by having no confidence in our flesh or human effort (Philippians 3:3), but rather put our hope and faith in God’s powerful love and promises.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

The 7 A’s of Confession and Reconciliation

20170402_194812

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa bay area.

Like King David in 2 Samuel 12:1-12, we all get mad when we hear about oppression and injustice. Like King David, most of us have been guilty at some point of oppression and injustice. When we find ourselves guilty, it is important to make confession and reconciliation, not to get rid of our guilt and heal our conscience, but to heal the pain of those we have hurt. In Ken Sande’s book, Resolving Everyday Conflict, he shares the 7 A’s of confession and reconciliation. I would like to look a further look at them here along with God’s Word. In so doing, I believe we can find a sincere, genuine and successful approach to healing the pain we have caused others. Please keep in mind not all the steps need to be followed for lesser offenses. You will need to pray and let God lead you as to exactly what steps to follow. Please keep in mind too, that after Adam’s sin the Garden of Eden was no longer a safe place for him. While God forgave Adam, he was never permitted back into the garden here on earth. What a thrilling moment that will be, when in the New Earth, Adam is reconciled to his garden and Eden is restored! Likewise there are some extreme cases of oppression and abuse, where certain relationships will only be safely reconciled and restored in the New Earth. Meanwhile what a precious blessing and responsibility it is to restore and reconcile what can be reconciled here on earth.

The 7 A’s of Confession and Reconciliation. 

  1. Address Everyone Involved. 

Sins committed only in the heart need to be confessed to God alone. Public sins need to be confessed to all those who were hurt.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16 NLT

2. Avoid Using the words, “if” “but” and “maybe.”

Say “I hurt you.” Not, “If I hurt you.” Say “I was wrong.” Not, “I was wrong but so were you.” Say, “I know I made a mistake.” Not “Maybe I made a mistake. Don’t shift, minimize or excuse your guilt.

People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy. Proverbs 28:13 NLT

3. Admit Specifically Where you were wrong. 

Don’t be vague.

Forgive me for shedding blood…Psalm 51:14 NLT

4. Acknowledge the Hurt.

You can even ask, “Do I understand how much I’ve hurt you?”

When Saul sinned, the throne was taken from him, because he was only sorry about what his sin had cost him personally. David sinned an even greater sin, but kept the throne, because He was truly sorry about what his sin had cost God.

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; Psalm 51:4 NLT

5. Accept the Consequences.

Genuine repentance accepts any due penalties.

Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Luke 19:8 NLT

6. Alter Your Behavior.

You are not really sorry if you keep willfully repeating the same offense. Ask people to hold you accountable.  You may even put your plan for change into writing. One of the reasons I am writing about this topic is to reinforce it in my own mind.

If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Ephesians 4:28 NLT

7. Ask for Forgiveness (And Allow Time)

If it took you a while to confess, it may take them a while to forgive. Don’t push it or rush it. If you are sincere and genuine in these 7 steps most people will be quick to forgive.

Often times when we try to place the blame on others they will turn around and place the blame on us. Often times when we accept full responsibility for our actions, others will then accept responsibility for their actions. Here I have attempted to simplify and paraphrase the ideas in Ken Sande’s book, to again reinforce them for myself, and to help others to make reconciliation. When we find ourselves being oppressed or treated unjustly it is easy to just run away, or attack back. When mankind rebelled against God, He neither ran away or attacked back. Instead He presented Himself as the peace offering for our offense!  Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 deals mainly with God’s attempt at reconciliation. This tells me reconciliation is very important.

It may seem hard to make confession and reconciliation. It may seem easier to run away. It may cost us our pride to make reconciliation, but that is a small price considering it cost God His dear Son. If reconciliation is worth God’s Son, then its definitely worth anything it would cost us.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.