by Steve DuPlessie
We talked this past Sunday from the Old Testament books of Numbers and Deuteronomy about the children of Israel on their wilderness road trip from Mount Sinai to the Promised Land (Listen again here). They sent 12 spies to scout out the land of Canaan that God had promised them. But after hearing there were giants in the land, they refused to move forward and instead turned back into the wilderness where they wandered around for 40 years — 40 years before finally entering the Promised Land with God’s help.
It’s possible, if you’re anything like me, that you’ve made some “wrong turns” in your life in the past, and missed out on what God has designed and prepared for you. Maybe you’re still “wandering in the wilderness” in your life because of bad choices, unwise decisions, and rebellion against what God has told you to do. So what if I made a wrong turn?
Well, there’s bad news and good news. Bad news first. Sin has consequences. And sometimes the consequences of sin cannot be undone. A child born out of wedlock. (There are no illegitimate children; but there are illegitimate parents!) Or fired from a job for bad behavior. Or a fatality on your conscience from a DUI driving accident. An abortion in your past. Sadly, some things cannot ever be “fixed” and the weight of those “wrong turn” decisions can be heavy.
The good news…
Here’s the good news! Jesus died for broken, fallen sinners like me and you! Here’s some powerful truths from the Bible. Read them over, let them soak deeply into your mind and your soul…
“The blood of Jesus (poured out when he died on the cross to pay the penalty required by a holy God for your sin) cleanses us from ALL sin.” – John 1:7
“If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9.
Forgiveness from God is not only possible, it’s a gift ready and waiting for any and all who come humbly to God, confessing their sin and asking Him for His forgiveness.
Did you notice the word ALL in both of those Bible promises? Every sin — small and large and huge — Jesus died to pay the price for ALL your sin. So you can be forgiven by God (who’s holiness was offended by your sin), and “cleansed, washed, purified from all your unrighteousness.”
Beyond that forgiveness from God, a careful inventory of our failures should also lead us to confess our responsibility to all who have been hurt — except when that confession might make the problem worse, not better — and ask for their forgiveness. Humble confession, without excuses or blaming, helps the soul.
You can’t control the other person, so they might be gracious and forgive you — then again, maybe not. But you have done the right thing to own it, apologize, and ask for forgiveness. [Forgiveness = Giving up the right to hold something against you any longer.] And if they give you the gift of their forgiveness, you can move forward in that previously broken relationship, while understanding that regaining trust takes time.
It might be that it was not a particular person that was wounded by your sin, but still, you need to “make things right.” Volunteering at a soup kitchen to serve the homeless, becoming a foster parent, donating generously to a non-profit that addresses the issue (a battered women’s shelter, MADD-Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, a crisis pregnancy resource center, etc.) can all help to “atone” for your failure and support what is good and right and just.
Then there’s the question, How can I keep from doing stuff like that again? Ahh, the million dollar question. The book of Proverbs in the middle of Hebrew Bible is 31 chapters of simple, practical, advice aimed at young people (but really, really useful for all of us).
The book identifies two kinds of people: those who are wise, and those who are fools. The wise person learns from their mistakes, asks for and learns from wise counsel, and willingly learns from correction. The fool on the other hand keeps on doing the same stupid stuff over and over because they ignore wise counsel, refuse to learn lessons from their past and change their attitudes and behaviors.
I’ve observed that most “fools” are fools not because they’re dumb — frequently they’re pretty bright! — but because they refuse to listen to and follow good counsel. They always seem to think they are smarter than the average person, and they “know better.” “I’ve got street smarts” says the one who’s continually in trouble with the law. “I can handle it, I don’t need help,” says the habitual drunkard/addict. “Just bad luck” says the person who’s always behind financially because of repeated foolish and wasteful financial decisions. Their independent refusal to submit to normal, conventional, proven wisdom becomes their undoing time after time after time. They say “I know, I know…” but they, by refusing to follow good counsel, are in fact fools.
Is there redemption after failure? Yes. There can be redemption in relationships when humble confession is offered and forgiveness is sought. There can be redemption in a life broken by foolish decisions when the fool submits willingly to wise counsel, and pursues what is right, good and just. And there can be redemption before God because Jesus died as your substitute, bearing on himself your sin and shame, and offering you the grace-filled gift of his goodness and righteousness in exchange!