If So, It’s Time to Change Directions
by Shelley Hitz
Have you ever been on a trip and realized you were headed in the wrong direction? You get that pit in your stomach as you realize that the road you are on is taking you further and further from your destination. That happened to CJ and me once where a twelve-hour drive toAtlantaturned into fourteen hours. It made for a long day!
And that’s why I’m glad we now have a GPS for our car. For whatever reason, I have a terrible sense of direction and often find myself making u-turns.
Usually, if I say we’re supposed to turn right, we really need to turn left and vice versa. But, once I realize I’m going the wrong direction, if I don’t change directions, I’ll never get to my destination…right?
Well the same is true in our spiritual lives.
Other “Clogs” in My Life
You see, I began to realize that some of those “clogs” in my life were not only my unforgiveness toward others, but also my sins…the ways I missed God’s mark and His standard for my life.
I was desperately trying to fill the emptiness and loneliness inside of me. And in doing so, I ended up down some roads I now regret. Roads that took me in the wrong direction. Roads that led me to certain addictions that filled me temporarily, but never lasted.
And so, once I had offered forgiveness to others, I was now in a place where I was ready to confess my sins to God and ask for His forgiveness.
I John 1:9 says, (emphasis mine) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
I also like the way the Amplified version says it (emphasis mine). “If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].” (AMP)
Did you notice how much unrighteousness it says God will cleanse us from? That’s right…ALL unrighteousness. There is no sin too big for God to forgive.
I also like the way the Amplified version says “continuously cleanse us.” Growing up in the church, I sometimes believed this false notion that you say a prayer one time to get saved and then “Poof!” everything is okay. But that’s not the way it works.
Yes, salvation is a one-time deal. We make a decision to start a relationship with Jesus, confess our sins and ask for forgiveness.
However, confession becomes a daily part of our lives…a “continuous cleansing.” Similar to our need for a physical shower each day to get clean, we also need a spiritual cleansing which comes through confession.
I don’t know about you, but some days I need to ask for forgiveness on a minute by minute basis. A jealous thought may come into my mind. “Lord, please forgive me for always comparing myself to other girls. Help me accept myself for who I am.”
I may sense God asking me to speak up and say something to a co-worker. But, I hesitate and miss my chance to share my faith with them. “Lord, please forgive me for being so afraid of what others think of me. I am such a people pleaser. Help me to care more about what you think of me than anyone else. Empower me to be obedient when you ask me to say or do something.”
And so we come to the second part of the Forgiveness Cross.
The Forgiveness Cross
The second part of the Forgiveness cross is the vertical portion, which represents asking God for forgiveness.
The Airplane Ride
Have you ever been a passenger on an airplane? I have flown in an airplane many times. One of my most memorable flights was in February of 2010, just weeks after a devastating earthquake hitHaiti. You see, I was boarding a chartered plane as part of a medical team to offer relief to those injured in the earthquake. At that time there were no commercial flights flying intoHaiti. See picture below.
However, let’s say you do decide to fly on a commercial airplane flight. And as you board, the flight attendant says to you, “Here is a backpack that every passenger is required to wear and I guarantee it will make your flight better.” So, you put on the backpack and find your seat.
Soon you start feeling uncomfortable. It feels like there is a lump in your back! And as you look around, not many other passengers are wearing their backpacks. But, you remember that the flight attendant promised it would make your flight better. So, you decide to give it more time.
Pretty soon, you start to feel hot and the weight of the backpack begins to dig into your shoulders. You notice people whispering, pointing at you and laughing. Then, the flight attendant trips and accidentally spills coffee all over you.
Even though the flight attendant promised wearing the backpack would make your flight more comfortable, it has only made it worse! Therefore, you quickly remove the backpack and place it under your seat.
However, let’s say the flight attendant gives you different instructions. As you are boarding the airplane, the flight attendant says, “Here is a backpack that every passenger is required to wear. Inside the backpack is a parachute. This is important because at some point in today’s flight you will have to jump 25,000 feet from this airplane. It will happen at any time and at a moment’s notice. If you don’t have your parachute on and ready to go, you will not survive.
Now if the parachute gets uncomfortable, hot or heavy will you take it off? No way! If people laugh at you and make fun of you, will you take it off? No!
What made the difference?
Knowing the purpose of the backpack.
In a similar way, I have heard many people in the church say, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and He will make your life better.” It is true that Jesus fills us with His Holy Spirit and gives us love, joy, peace, etc. However, it’s also promised in the Bible that we will face persecution as followers of Christ.
Therefore, the true purpose of asking God’s forgiveness and starting a relationship with Jesus is not just to “make our lives better.” Have a relationship with Jesus is like wearing a parachute. Only He can save us from the 25,000 foot jump that awaits us on judgment day. (Comfort, Ray. Hell’s Best Kept Secret. Whitaker House, 2004.)
The Bible says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10
Receiving God’s Forgiveness
When we come to God asking for forgiveness out of a pure and sincere heart, He promises to cleanse us. God chooses to forgive us for our sake, so we can be cleansed from our sins and be ready to stand before Him on judgment day.
“If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared.” Psalm 130:3-4
Are you ready to change directions?
If, so let God know. Confess the ways you’ve been going down the wrong path. Use Psalm 51 as your prayer if you don’t know how to start.
And then ask God to empower you with His Holy Spirit to change directions. You may have to make some hard choices. I know I did. It was not easy. But, God gave me the strength to obey. And He will give you what you need as well.
And, guess what?
You’ll find true life on the other side. And you’ll realize, like I did, that Jesus’ mathematical formulas – his teachings – really do add up to a full life.
Questions for Reflection:
1) I encourage you to start with prayer. You might want to pray a prayer of surrender. If so, you can pray something like this,
Lord, I want to be free from anything that weighs me down and the sin that so easily entangles. (Hebrews 12:1-2). I surrender to you my heart, mind and will and ask that you lead me through this time of journaling and prayer.
Help me to be willing to deal with any sin in my life that keeps me from you and hinders my spiritual growth. I acknowledge your power to forgive any sin and to help me do what I cannot do myself. Amen.
2) In your journal, write out any current sin in your life that comes to mind. It could be an outward sin like getting drunk at parties or it could be an inward sin like jealousy or pride. If nothing comes to mind, pray and ask God to reveal to you any sin that is coming between you and Him.
3) Once you are ready, you can pray a prayer asking God for forgiveness of your sins. There is no “magic prayer” but you can choose to use the following prayer as an example.
Lord, I confess and repent of my sin (s) of ____________ and of my anger and resentment against You, God, for allowing this to happen in my life. I ask You to forgive me, and I receive Your forgiveness. I forgive myself for participating in this sin.
I ask for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to help me truly repent of my sin(s) of ________________ and help me to change directions. Please show me how I need to change and help me through the Holy Spirit to make those changes despite what my friends and family may think or say. Thank you for taking the weight of this sin from me and restoring my relationship with You. Amen.
4) Write out any changes you sense God asking you to make as you repent of your sin (s). I recommend that you find an accountability partner to help you and pray for you as you make these changes.
An excerpt from the best-selling book, “Forgiveness Formula: Finding Lasting Freedom in Christ” by CJ and Shelley Hitz.
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