2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)
Then if my people who are called by my name will (1)humble themselves and (2)pray and (3)seek my face and (4)turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
In 2 Chronicles, God offers us a 4 part path to recovery from sin. Sometimes we feel like we just can’t be forgiven. Sometimes, there is so much silence around our specific offense, that we dwell alone in satan’s realm of pity and condemnation. Sometimes we feel the silence is absolutely fitting. We start to think “What else do we possibly deserve?” It becomes a comfortable place of darkness. Without God’s light–how in the world can we find our way out of that darkness? So let’s put the light right in the middle of it.
James 2:10 (NLT)
“For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.”
It’s difficult to add anything meaningful to this very clear statement. Sin is sin is sin. If we have committed one, we are as guilty as one who has committed all. We should remember that when we need God’s forgiveness–the same as we should remember it when someone sins against us. So, when God speaks of forgiveness–rest assured, even the sins we tend to not name because they feel too big, too horrible, to shameful, he includes them all.
Knowing God’s grace applies to whatever silent darkness you are in matters. So, now what? How do we get some light in Satan’s perfect prison of condemnation? After all, who else would benefit the most if we think God’s grace doesn’t apply to our mistakes?
1 – Humble Ourselves
Before we can start to seek forgiveness, we have to come to term with our own mistakes, admitting they are actually sin. It sounds easy enough, but we all know there are some sins we want to justify. Abortion is a great example of such a difficult sin to admit. If we admit it is a sin against God, then it opens the entire experience for more guilt and shame to attack. That’s why it’s so critical to have people coming alongside to help guide us on our recovery journey. When we are getting right with God–Satan absolutely wants to condemn us so badly that we walk away.
In our interview for the cover story, Jamie Harrell mentioned “I actually had to spend time thinking it through to admit it to myself as wrong—and then finding a way to forgive myself before I could think about talking to God about it.” That’s not for everyone, but it was a real step in her recovery process that helped. Jamie wasn’t even ready to forgive herself. People often find great solace in living with the pain of our mistakes, as it becomes a home we feel we deserve—one we have earned with our decisions. Not feeling worthy of our own forgiveness, much less God’s forgiveness, is actually a humble, broken place to go before God–because in those moments, we are knee deep in the feeling unworthy of God’s forgiveness. We are free from pride and arrogance, which often entangles us. And, He is RIGHT THERE to let us know He absolutely loves us. He absolutely can remove our sins as far as the east is from the west.
As an example of a heartfelt prayer in humility and confession in front of God, I offer a Psalm speaking specifically of the “shedding of blood,” because of the grave depth of the offense and God’s specific inclusion of this sin in the Bible. God is not silent on such sins. As any parent would, God wishes to protect us from making mistakes that will destroy our lives. He restores the humble heart in despair. All of Psalm 51 has such a broken, humbled confession to the Lord, but let’s look just at these 3 verses:
Psalm 51:13-15 (NLT)
“Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.”
I love Psalm 51 for so many reasons, but verse 15 really speaks to why we need to know God has forgiven our sin. “Then…(after He forgives), THEN, I will joyfully SING of your forgiveness. By healing your heart, God will “Unseal” your lips so that your mouth may praise him from a place of even more gratitude for His mercy than you had before. When shown that kind of mercy, it allows God to use something Satan meant for evil to bring about good. How much more mercy does a heart have to give that has been given so much recognizably undeserved mercy from our Creator?
2 – Praying before God
Humbling ourselves before God and admitting what we’ve done is NOT an easy “said and done” kind of experience. Don’t misunderstand, God’s forgiveness operates that way, but coming to terms with it ourselves does not. There are absolute repercussions to our sinful decisions; however, shining God’s light in on the situation helps bring about a peace. If we’re dwelling in the darkness, we are losing out on feeling the freedom to think on things that are excellent and praiseworthy, which will help guard our hearts and minds. Humbling ourselves before God frees us to find all the healing He freely offers us to restore us and then protect us when Satan tries to use this tactic to bring us down again. Praying to God in that humility offers great comfort and peace that makes no sense considering the situation we’re facing. Going before God humbly and telling him what we need brings about the exact healing we need:
Philippians 4:6-9 (NLT)
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”
God has always known us–before anyone else knew us. There is nothing you are going to say in your prayer that surprises him. He knew you before you were ever born.
3 – Seeking God
Talk to God about Psalm 139: 1-17 below. Acknowledge that He already knows as He is omnipotent (knows everything). This step is critical when you think about God’s guidance in this scripture above. God says He knew us when we were formed and that He knew the steps we would take in our lives. There’s nothing you need to tell Him that He doesn’t already know. He has always known you. So, humbling ourselves is really admitting to God that we know what we have done is a sin against Him. It’s finding a broken spirit to lay before Him knowing we just don’t deserve what He has to offer—His payment for our sins and His forgiveness.
Psalm 139 (NLT)
1 O Lord, you have examined my heart and
know everything about me.
2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You
know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at
home. You know everything I do.
4 You know what I am going to say even
before I say it, Lord.
5 You go before me and follow me. You place
your hand of blessing on my head.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too
great for me to understand!
7 I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
8 If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
9 If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
11 I could ask the darkness to hide me and the
light around me to become night—
12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from
you. To you the night shines as
bright as day. Darkness and light are the
same to you.
13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of
my body and knit me together in my
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully
complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—
how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in
utter seclusion, as I was woven together in
the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born. Every day
of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single
day had passed.
17 How precious are your thoughts about me,
O God. They cannot be numbered!
4 – Turn
Tell Him what you have done. Tell Him you need His forgiveness and healing. Tell Him your heart’s desire is to commit such an offense no more. There are so many great places where God speaks of His overwhelming grace and forgiveness when we confess (tell him we are wrong and what we’ve done). I love 1 John 1:9 for this kind of prayer, where we can cling to God’s promises. If we confess, he will cleanse us from “ALL WICKEDNESS.”
I will repeat for those who really like to feel they have the ONE thing God won’t forgive—that’s ALL WICKEDNESS.
1 John 1:9 (NLT)
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
Then, while humble, while praying, while seeking Him, pray for the plan to help you turn from your sins. Some sins are addictive. Let’s not miss this critical step. There’s not a way to list HOW to turn from any kind of sin here. There are lots of ways I can suggest. For one, get an accountability partner, one whom you will be honest with and one who will absolutely be honest with you. Seek out resources inside your church. In some cases, you might need to seek out a Christian counselor. In other, you might need to download an app to keep you from going to certain websites. If this is any sort of addictive sin, you should seek a restorative group. There’s a great chance any of us can stumble again and having a group or accountability partners (people to keep us on track and check on us) helps. Someone in your church leadership or in your church can help point you in the right direction to get the support you need to kick this sin or recover from one that has a lot of emotional weight. God can absolutely use Christians to help hold you along this path.
God is super clear. If we humble ourselves, if we pray, if we seek His face, if we turn from our wickedness–He will forgive. It’s humbling just to think about it. It can bring us to our knees to dwell upon it. Being forgiven when you know you are horribly wrong, when you know you can’t undo what you’ve done AND when you know how holy and perfect God is—that’s seriously some kind of AMAZING GRACE.