Forgiving Yourself

 

Forgiving yourself is what you will naturally do when you accept and receive God’s forgiveness.  When you are forgiven by Him, His forgiveness flows to you and gives you the strength you need to forgive yourself.

The reason why we don’t always forgive ourselves is because we fail to see that God loves us and cares for us and that He really wants to forgive us.  And so we fail to truly repent of our sins—thus the guilt of our sins remains with us.  Accordingly, because we are unable to trust the sacrifice of Christ for us, we feel the need to punish ourselves, to tell ourselves how dumb and stupid we are, to restrict ourselves from fellowship, and to wallow in our guilt.  Some have tried to starve themselves, and to cut themselves; some viciously mutilate themselves.  I think one of the more common ways people punish themselves is by trying to make themselves unworthy by committing sins, so that they will incur more guilt upon themselves, because the feeling of guilt is punishment.  We also will try to bring up in our mind past sins, to make ourselves feel guiltier.  I suppose there is no end to the different ways we try to punish ourselves—some ways we are quite conscious of, in others we are unconscious or half-conscious of.  But in all the punishments we inflict on ourselves, it is all straight from the devil and from an evil heart.

But it is all unnecessary and so tragic.  For Christ has already paid for our sins.  He gave His own life and suffered the worst punishment possible for your sins and mine.  There is no need for more punishment.  In fact when you do punish yourself God grieves, because you are rejecting His precious gifts to you—the gifts of forgiveness and joy and peace.  Stop punishing yourself today. Forgive yourself and enjoy His wonderful forgiveness and life—the life of peace that He has called you to.

 

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Why We Sometimes Don’t Feel Forgiven 

 

 

God tells us in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  This verse doesn’t say anything about repentance, but I think it is implied; with true confession repentance will always be included.  But the point I want to make here is that God has promised that if we confess our sins—which implies that we also repent—He will forgive us and cleanse us.  So if we don’t feel forgiven after we say that we have confessed, I don’t think we should blame it on God, because He will always keep His promise.  The problem must be that we haven’t really, genuinely confessed and repented.

But you say, “I did confess; I did admit my sin.”  Yes, but did you repent?  Did you decide to change your life?  Did you decide not to sin?  You see if you are still committing the same sins without any changes, perhaps you haven’t really repented, and so you didn’t truly confess either.  True confession means to turn from sin, to stop being a slave of sin, and to start being a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:19).  If you do that then you prove that you have really confessed, and He will forgive and cleanse you.  And on top of that, He will give you a new power for living, and for resisting sin and Satan.  Then through this new power you will feel His forgiveness.

So, if we don’t feel forgiven, the problem is not with God, it is with us, because we really haven’t repented.  And the reason why we don’t repent is because we aren’t looking at Jesus enough; we don’t see His grace enough.  Consequently, we don’t believe Him—that He loves us and wants to forgive us.  Instead we listen to Satan too much, and we get discouraged about our sin.  That’s what Satan tries to do—discourage us.  He constantly tells us that we are a failure and that God won’t accept us.  And so, in our discouragement we feel a sense of hopelessness, and we sometimes fall headlong into sin, which makes us feel even more unforgiven.

So, if you don’t feel forgiven, what should you do?  I think you already know.  You need to claim 1 John 1:9: to believe it, and to confess and repent immediately!  That means to agree with God about how rotten your sins are, then to make plans to stop your sin.  When you do that, you can believe, absolutely, that you will feel a new power and cleansing flood over your body and soul.

 

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How to Receive and Be Cleansed By God’s Forgiveness

 

God’s forgiveness is a gift that we receive by faith.  Just as we were saved by His grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9), His constant, day by day forgiveness also comes by grace through faith.  We can’t earn it by works, nor do we deserve it; we receive it by faith.  And the way we begin to have faith in Him is by coming to Him in prayer with a broken and humble heart—to confess our sins and repent.  Then when God sees that we are genuine in our repentance, He will freely offer us His gift of forgiveness and cleansing.

But how do we begin to confess and to genuinely turn from our sins?  How does this happen?  Well, to begin with, God moves in us to change our heart.  But then when you feel Him moving you, it is up to you to respond.  You must trust Him, agree with Him about your sins, and repent.  That is what confessing sin is—agreeing with God about the badness of my sin.  It is agreeing with Him that I need to stop my sin and go His way.  Therefore, in order to be forgiven and cleansed, I need to listen to God, trust him, and do what He says.  And you can believe that He will always tell you to confess and repent.  That is the key.  As Ron Davis said in his book, A Forgiving God in an Unforgiving World, “When you live a life of free-flowing confession and repentance from your sins, God will faithfully, continually forgive you.”1  And then, along with His forgiveness, as 1 John 1:9 says, “…He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness.”

 

1 Ron Davis, A Forgiving God In An Unforgiving World (Harvest House Publisher: Eugene, Oregon, 1984), p. 39.

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Five Wrong Reasons to Fast

 

In a previous blog post I gave twelve good reasons to fast, and I invite you to look at that post. In this post I want to bring to you the wrong reasons to fast, just to make sure we aren’t inclined to fast that way.  Here are five wrong reasons to fast.

1. As a form of religion or ritual. Arthur Wallis, in his book, God’s Chosen Fast, notes that in the history of the church, what was at first a matter of custom, such as the practice of fasting each Wednesday and Friday, became a matter of obligation.12  Be careful not to let this happen to you.  Fasting should always be a matter of love to God, never of religion or ritual.

2. To punish the body for sin. Some have believed that the body is evil, and in order to secure the purity of the soul we need to punish the body for its sinful desires.  That belief is clearly in error.  It is not the physical body that sins.  The body, with all its desires is good.  Sin comes from the heart and the mind.

Moreover, the Bible says that Jesus has already paid the penalty for your sins at the cross; and if you confess your sins (the sins of your heart) God is faithful and just to forgive your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). That is why we do not need to punish ourselves—in mind or body.  Thus the purpose of fasting is not to punish sin, but rather to help us control our bodily desires so we don’t sin.

3. To atone for sin and acquire merit. Fasting can never atone for sins or acquire any merit for God.  Jesus already has atoned for sins; therefore no merits are required.  Let us instead have a grateful and a thankful heart for all that Jesus has done for us.

4. As a matter of pride – to see how religious or disciplined I can be. We should fast to acquire discipline, but our discipline is to be used only to please God and to serve Him better.  We should never fast to appear more religious or holy, but rather that people would see Jesus in me.

5. As a form of protest. Remember when we were toddlers, how we refused to eat in order to get what we wanted?  Well, I would say that those who fast as a form of protest are just being childish.  Their behavior isn’t God honoring at all!      

 

12 Arthur Wallis, God’s Chosen Fast (Christian Literature Crusade, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania), 1999, p. 91.

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Fasting: Three Categories of Fasts

 

When you pray, sometimes it is beneficial to fast. There are all kinds or types of fasts. Here are three categories of fasts.

 

 Fasts That Depict the Degree of the Fast

Normal fast.  This is a fast from food and drinks, but not from water.  It is the normal way to fast, and how Jesus fasted for forty days.

Absolute fast.  This is a fast from food and drinks, including water.  It is how Moses fasted for eighty days on Mount Sinai, and how Elijah fasted in the desert (both were miraculous feats).  There were other absolute fasts not miraculous, but were not much over three days.  For no one can naturally live for much over three days without food and water.

Partial fast.  In a partial fast, you would eat only fruits and (or) vegetables—like Daniel did.  If you have health problems, if you are concerned that not eating will make you sick or too weak, or if your situation does not allow you to safely fast normally, a partial fast is the way to go.  It is also how I would recommend that you start fasting if you are not use to going without food.

 

Fasts That Depict Who Is Fasting

Personal fast.  This is an individual fast and is to be a private fast—just between you and God.

 Public fast.  This is a fast by a group of people, such as a nation or a church.  It can be a regular fast (e.g., the Day of Atonement, which is one day a year), or a special fast (for a special need).  In the case of a special-public fast, the fast usually begins as the leader sees the need and calls the people to fast.  They may all fast together at the same time for a certain length of time, or, as is the case with some churches these days, those who are willing sign up to fast for certain meals on certain days until all the meals and days are covered for a certain amount of days.  The advantage of this method is that fasting is easier; but the disadvantage is that the intensity of the fast is lacking.  They certainly didn’t do it this way in the Old Testament—such as with the Nation of Israel under Jehosephat (2 Chron. 20), or when the city of Nineveh fasted (Jonah 3:5-9).  In my opinion we need to return to those days when they all fasted together—and what wonderful things happened as a result!

 

Fasts That Depict the Occasion of the Fast

 Regular fast.  This would be a fast that is set at a particular and reoccurring time, say once a week, once a month, or once a year. It can be a public fast (as on the Day of Atonement every year), or a personal fast.  I think it is important for a personal-regular fast that your fast be very private—only between you and God—because if it becomes well known that you fast regularly on a certain day of the week, e.g., you may become proud and arrogant and your fast will lose it’s purpose and it power.   Be careful also of being too legalistic about your regular fast, and never try to insist that others do it too.  On the other hand, if you have never tried fasting regularly, say every Monday, you may want to try it.  If you keep it a private thing it will produce for you huge spiritual rewards.

Special fast.  This can also be public or personal.  If it is a special-public fast, a leader usually will call a group to fast for that special need.  But if it is a special-personal fast then God Himself will call you to fast. And when you fast, there is no need to tell anyone about it; it is just between you and God.

 Involuntary fast.  Sometimes you don’t choose to fast; it is forced upon you and allowed by God.  I think a lot of Paul’s fasting was of this type.  For he was constantly in danger and shipwrecked, and many times he wasn’t in a place where there was food available.  This type may not seem much like a fast, but more as a trial.  Nevertheless, if you have a good attitude and trust God, it can bring a good result.

 

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3 Reasons Why Most Christians Don’t Fast

 

I would say that most Christians these days don’t fast.  Here are three reasons why:

We have reacted against extremism.  Those whom we have read about in the Bible who have fasted, most of those in the early church who have fasted, and all the others we have talked about, I think were quite sincere and dedicated Christians; and I think their fasting was with right motives.  But I suspect that there were some that were off base, that is, they were extreme and legalistic.  Perhaps there were even some who were saying that you have to fast regularly in order to gain God’s acceptance.  I think this is why many people have revolted against fasting—because they don’t see the good side of it, only the negative side.  And so, because of those extremists, many have thrown it all out.  They say fasting is all bad, or it is something to be cautious about.  Moreover, they say, “I would never want to be like a monk or like any of those crazy fanatics!”

 We love food and hate denying ourselves.  There is no question that we in America eat too much, and we teach our children to eat too much.  Most of us have grown up with the idea that to be healthy we should eat three meals a day, and also snack between meals to keep up our strength.  I remember as a child being forced to eat all the food on my plate—even if I wasn’t hungry!   The sad truth is that most of the food we eat is not really good for us.  It’s too spicy, too sweet, and too cooked.  We don’t need all that rich food, especially the deserts and snacks.  We in America are much too fat!  And by our silly eating rules we are making our children fat!  But more than that, we are training them to lust for food, to eat food for the taste and for the pleasure it gives, not for health or for strength—because if we ate for health and strength we wouldn’t eat all that cooked, spicy food; we would eat more natural, raw food.  Thus because we have been trained to love the taste of food, and because we have been taught that we must eat three meals a day, with snacks between meals, the idea of fasting just isn’t logical to us.  And so we reject the idea all together.

 We have a wrong view of sin and grace.  There are some that believe that fasting has no place in this age of grace.  They would probably say that fasting in the Old Testament was essential for the purpose of mourning and grieving over sin; but now that we live in this day of grace fasting is unnecessary—because God forgives us of sin.  They believe that the more we sin the more grace abounds.  They would say, “We are not under the law; we are under grace.”  For this reason, they believe there is no need for fasting, that in this age of grace the Holy Spirit is with us to comforts us—and so we are not to feel pain or grief (which would come through fasting); rather we are to feel love, joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit.  This whole train of thought of course is wrong.  Just because God gives us grace doesn’t mean that we should not grieve over sin.  The Holy Spirit grieves over sin and so we should too.

So these are three of the reasons why people aren’t fasting these days.  But as we know, they are not reasons backed up with truth.  We have let Satan deceive us about fasting; we have not seen the good part of it, the good purpose of it. Please check out my blog entitled Eight Descriptions of Fasting to get God’s true purpose for Fasting.

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Our Prayers Will Fail If We Don’t Pray According to the Bible

 

Here are the last seven reason why our prayers fail, beginning with our neglect of the Word of God.

 Teachings on Prayer – We don’t let the Bible teach us how to pray.  Everything in the Bible was written for our instruction (Rom. 15:14).  All the prayers of the Bible and all the teachings on prayer, all the stories of how people prayed and how they had faith to pray (Heb. 13:7) are our teachers on how to pray.  If we fail to read the Bible and heed it’s teachings about prayer, we can’t expect to know how to pray; therefore, we will certainly fail in prayer.

 Unity – We lack unity.  Prayers will always fail when there is no unity in the body of Christ.  For where there is no unity in the body of Christ there is also no unity with Christ.  And where there is no unity with Christ there can be no answers to prayer.   For prayer answers are reserved only for those who abide in Christ (abiding suggests a spiritual unity).  John 15:7 says, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”

Vigilance – We are not vigilant in prayer.  The Bible tells us that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8), and if we are not alert and watchful in prayer, he will catch us off guard, lure us into sin, and keep us from earnest prayer.  I urge you to stay awake, be watchful, and resist Satan whenever he strikes!

Word – We don’t pray according to the Bible.  The Bible is our teacher and guide.  But it is more than that; it is the very Word of God. If we abide in the Word we have the promise from Jesus that whatever we ask it will be done for us (Jn. 15:7).  But the reverse is also true; if we don’t abide in the Word, whatever we ask will not be done for us, because we will not know His will.  Begin to read, study, and meditate on the Word today.  Let it fill your life and your prayers.  Soon you will find that your prayers will not go unanswered.

Xanadu – We have not found quiet places to pray.  What does that term Xanadu bring to mind?  Well, whatever you are thinking, the way I mean it here is a place of solitude and beauty and rest—a place where we find the presence of God.  It’s always hard to pray if our place of prayer is full of distraction, and if we are surrounded by things that would entice us to sin.  God wants our full attention and loyalty.  If we take the time to find those special, quiet places to pray, soon we will hear His voice and experience His presence.

Yielding – We don’t yield ourselves to God.  To yield yourself to God means to give up your own will.  It means to offer yourself to Him as a willing servant.  It also means to resist all the forces of evil working in you and around you.  If you do these things your prayers will not fail.  But if you refuse to yield yourself to God, even without knowing it you are yielding yourself to the devil and to sin; consequently, your prayers will fail.

Zenith – Our prayers are not focused.  When prayers have no direction and no focus, it is obvious that the intent of prayer is not to bring answers from God, but to puff up ourselves and draw attention to ourselves.  This kind of prayer can never succeed, because it does not desire to succeed in the way God desires and has ordained for prayer.  God’s plan for prayer is that prayers be specific, toward a desired goal, and with a Godly motive.  And when we pour out our hearts to Him for those things He will give them to us.  If you take this approach to prayer, soon God will begin to answer your prayers.

 

 

 

 

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