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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Feelings and Forgiveness

For too many of us, feelings dictate our lives.  Me included foremost of all.  For us, feeling is fact.  But truth says feelings are feelings, nothing more and nothing less.

Over the past few weeks, this problem of feelings versus facts has been brought home to me culminating in my husband's sermon this morning on forgiving ourselves.  I wish you all could have heard him this morning, but I'll sum it up.  If I ask, "How can I forgive myself for ________?" I am asking an erroneous question.  The real question is, "Do I believe God?"  Because God's word tells us:

  • If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn. 1:9)
  • As far as the east is from the west, so far He has removed our sins from us. (Ps. 103:12)
  • He remembers our sin no more. (Is. 43:25, Jer. 31:34, Heb. 8:12, Heb. 10: 17)
There are more, but you get the idea.  The point is, if we have accepted the gift of salvation through Christ's crucifixion, we are forgiven. Period. End of discussion.  To ask how we can forgive ourselves is, in essence, saying that Christ's atonement covered everything except this one thing...this thing for which I feel no forgiveness.  Because if I don't feel forgiven, I can't be forgiven.  Right?

Wrong.  On two counts.

First, Christ's atonement covered every sin. Every. Single. One. And it doesn't matter if you believe it or not, it did.  The question is, whether we are talking about forgiveness of sins for eternal salvation or forgiveness for those sins we commit after salvation, do we believe it?  Do we act in accordance with the truth?  Regardless of our feelings.  Because the second error is that how we feel determines the truth.  

Take, for example, someone who can't forgive themselves for not loving their parents.  Well...here again we have two errors:  1) the Bible doesn't command that we love our parents, it commands that we HONOR them, and 2) whether you feel like honoring your parents is irrelevant, the determining factor is your actions.

(Now for those of you who have heard that "honor" requires a child to submit to every demand of a parent, do not twist--or allow someone else to twist--Biblical truth here.  God's word does not condone abuse in the name of "honoring" a parent.  Never has.  Never will.  But it is not abuse to require a child to do some work.  And again, I hear, "But it can be!" roaring from the mouths of those who tend hurting children.  Well, of course it can be.  Anything taken to extremes can be a form of abuse...and is a topic for a whole different discussion.  For now, let's agree that what I'm talking about here is honoring a parent who is not asking their child to do anything illegal or immoral.  Or honoring elderly parents who need special care.  Or honoring parents by not verbally assassinating their character.)

There is a parable in the Bible about two sons. The father comes to both asking them to help harvest the fields.  The first son says he isn't coming, but shows up anyway.  His feelings were dishonoring, but his final action was obedience/honor.  The second son says he will come, but doesn't show.  He had every intention/feeling to obey, but his actions were disobedient.  The first son, the one who acted regardless of his feelings, is the one Jesus holds up as the right one. (Mt. 21:28-31)

So, getting back to our person who can't feel forgiveness for not feeling loving, he is tied in a knot over feelings which he has taken to be facts.  Instead, he needs to judge himself against the truth.  First, if he has not honored his parents in actions, he needs to agree with God that this is a sin (confession) and go forward acting out honor regardless of how he feels about it.  Second, he needs to hold his feelings up to the light of truth.  Every time guilt attacks, he needs to repeat Biblical truth either about how every sin has been forgiven or how actions determine obedience, not feelings.

Because feelings are not facts. 

Feelings are not facts.

Feelings are NOT facts...

Until next time,
Becca


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