Thursday, July 28, 2011

#1 issue I deal with in Pastoral Counseling...

We have all sinned.  If people are willing to discuss this idea, I find that all are willing to admit that it’s true.  But, how often do you sin?
                Once a year?  Once a month?  Once a week?  Once a day?           Am I getting warm yet?
The truth is that we all sin every day, and probably multiple times.  So, the natural follow-up question is:
                How often do you repent and seek forgiveness?
This is the #1 issue I deal with in Pastoral Counseling with families and marriages, as well as with individuals.  I am stunned at the way the majority of people react to the idea as if it’s brand new – or at least new to them. 

The first difficulty I observe with forgiveness, is blaming.  For example, “Well, yes that was wrong, but I would’ve never done it if he/she hadn’t done this!”  Sounds a lot like Adam and Eve, doesn't it?  This is where I will spend some time to bring all of us to the truth:  You are responsible for your own actions.  God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done’” (Romans 2.6).
When we all come together around this truth, I will ask something like, “Was what you did wrong?”  And, if they say, “Yes, but…” then I will cut them off and clarify, “This is a Yes or No question.  So, was what you did wrong, Yes or No?”  When they will acknowledge their fault, then the next thing you want to teach them to do is to follow through in obedience by seeking forgiveness.
One husband I spoke with acknowledged:  “Yes, I hurt my wife deeply.  Yes, that was wrong.  Yes, I need to seek her forgiveness.”  Then, without hesitation, he did nothing.  For the next 45 minutes, he danced around the statement, “Yes, I need to seek her forgiveness.  I should do that.”  Finally, I had him turn to face his crying wife and coached him through the 4 toughest words he had ever had to say to her:  “Will you forgive me?”
These steps are very simple, but not easy.  Contrariwise, it can be exhausting and can generate an abundance of strong emotions.  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1.9).  "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness"  (1 John 1.9). We must love them closer to Christ, and never compromise truth. 

Truths like:         
>     sin requires repentance
>     forgiveness does not require repentance – you can still forgive the unrepentant
>     reconciliation requires both repentance and forgiveness

You may have difficulty with these statements.  That’s fine, because they are hard to live… at first.  But, let me ask you something:
                How often do you repent and seek forgiveness?

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