Jul 24, 2017

Dear Esther,

I am writing this in great distress. My life is in ruins. I have come to realize what a miserable person I’ve become. I have been out of church for decades and have no pastor. I realize and it scares me greatly that I have not loved my wife as Christ loves the Church. I did not raise my sons up in the way they should go. I am pitiful.

I had to go on disability in 2003 and went back to drinking and sexual immorality. I look back now and have for some time… How could I have done this? I feel absolutely lost and wonder if I was really saved. I feel very hopeless.

I am scared. I’m writing this as thoughts pour into my head. I also drank beer with my sons when they were at an early age. I have confessed all these sins to God but I feel he doesn’t hear me. It’s even hard for me to call him Father because of these great sins. I dread you telling me there’s no hope and I don’t know how much longer I can go on. I have little hope left.

Rick

Dear Rick,

I appreciate your forthrightness. I think if there were a big movie screen that depicted the shortcomings and failures of Christians before they became really serious about their faith, the shock factor would be huge. As long as you have breath, it is not too late to get right with God and hopefully with your family.

Since we first corresponded via email, I do hope you have sought out a pastor or leader at a Bible teaching church as I suggested. I do think it is best if you establish some accountability with a good strong Christian man who can help guide you. No one is perfect and you might be surprised how many failures others have had.

We know we cannot undo the past, so it only makes things worse to keep dwelling on it. You say your life is in ruins—that is very vague, I don’t know what that means. Has your wife disowned you? Are your sons failing in their lives? Are you at risk of losing your home? The fact that you are feeling so badly about how you conducted your life is a good thing; that is when real change can begin.

Regardless of what the details are, the only solution to your problems is to fully repent and make sure you are saved. From what you wrote you don’t sound confident that you truly repented before the Lord since you don’t think He is listening to you. God is listening, but you must be totally sincere in your plea of repentance. Then take one step at a time, forward. It is also important to ask for forgiveness from all those whom you have hurt, especially your wife and children.

It would be good to spend some time with your sons and try to tell them how terrible you feel about drinking beer with them at a young age. Explain to them how you were foolishly caught-up in the ways of the world but now you have repented before the Lord and you will spend the rest of your life trying to make up for the harm you caused them and their mother. They might not take you seriously, but with time by living a changed life they will see you are sincere.

The same goes of course, for your wife. According to Scripture, after the Lord she must come first in your life. I don’t know how disabled you are but if you were able to cheat on her and guzzle alcohol, you must not be incapacitated to a degree that would cause you to be an unproductive person.

If your family members cannot accept your apology, then at least you have made a sincere effort to make amends. But please be patient with them. It sounds like they will need time to see a new you. Another thing to be aware of is this: It is one thing to have genuine remorse, and we must, when we wrong others. But holding on to that remorse can stymie anyone. The best thing to do is pray for those you have harmed, and perhaps in time some of those relationships will be restored. Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)

You have also greatly harmed yourself but your life is not over and the Lord can and will help you recover. We have an awesome and merciful God. He is the God of restoration. His greatest enemy—the devil himself, would like you to wallow in self-pity and destroy yourself by focusing on your failures. I urge you to make a true and sincere recommitment to the Lord and in that way you will have a new beginning.

“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).

Unless we are totally committed to the Lord, and show it by spending quality time praying (communicating with Him), reading and learning the Scriptures, spending time with other serious believers—it will be tough to grow in the Lord and allow Him work with you—to renew your mind.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).

When I was in my first year of college, I had an older friend who had some trying problems. She was a beautiful well-educated woman. She and her husband had three young children. The family was very prominent in our community. In fact, the husband was known by everyone because he was one of the local TV hosts for various local and regional  television shows; a very good looking man with a great speaking voice and strong presence.

When I met her, they were divorced. They were divorced because of his crazed behavior due to alcoholism. The clincher that sent her running to a divorce lawyer was the day he climbed up on the roof of their house, stood stark naked upon it in their nice well-heeled suburban neighborhood, and shouted obscenities at the top of his lungs. Talk about humiliation and being embarrassed!

It was very tough for my friend and the boys. It looked like a hopeless situation. But she prayed faithfully and never stopped believing that the father of her children could be redeemed, would stop drinking and the insanity that came with his alcoholism would end.

Years later after I had moved away she called to tell me that she and the boys were moving to Boston and the family had been reunited. The husband had totally stopped drinking and had made amends to anyone he had  harmed. They were going to be remarried in Boston. We have kept in touch over the years and she and the entire family are still as happy as ever.

You see, God is in the miracle business. With God we always have hope. You, too, can have a new beginning. Although you are disabled to some degree, if you could find a way to give to others, it would be good for you (and them). By giving, I mean spending time with others, volunteering to help where there is a need—that would take the focus off your own problems.

When we get outside of ourselves we can better appreciate the blessings we have and we don’t dwell on our problems so much. As you search out a good church, see if there is something you can do to get involved. You might be surprised how much you could do to take the focus off your own problems—which would also help restore some faith in your own ability to live a respectful life.

I think the place where you find yourself today is good. Admitting your mistakes is the beginning of healing. There is nothing to fear if you are truly repentant and willing to do whatever it takes to make things right with God and with your family.

I don’t know what kind of disability you have, but if you take any type of medication please check with your doctor and make sure it does not have any kind of side-effects that may cause you to be depressed. I am not giving you medical advice, but I am suggesting that you speak with your doctor or a health professional and inquire about any possible side-effects any medication you may be taking could cause.

I have received so many letters over the years, and it is my prayer that as we move closer to the end of the age the focus of all believers should be on reaching others for Christ and fulfilling the Great Commission, regardless of our personal problems. One day soon all the challenges of this life will end, and we will be with the Lord for all eternity. Be sure you belong to Him. Give Him your all. We don’t know how much time we have left before the Rapture. We cannot undo the past, but we can make every new day count.

Rick, never underestimate the good you can do with the time we have left. Get into your Bible and make God number one in your life. It is not too late. You can still have the joy of the Lord; that joy comes from being 100 percent sold-out for Him, and living a changed life that is reflective of honoring Him.

I would love to know how things progress for you and your family. Please go out of your way to love your wife and show her that love by doing whatever it takes to please her.  And it is imperative to spend time in the Scriptures to the point that those truths resonate within you, so they become a part of you. The Bible and prayer are lifeblood for the believer. The closer we get to the Lord, the harder it is to stray from Him.

In God’s love,

Esther

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him” (Psalm 28:7).

 

Jul 17, 2017

Dear Esther,

If we’re forgiven for our sins—past, present, future when we accept Jesus as our Savior, why do have to keep asking forgiveness the rest of lives? Aren’t they all under the blood? Already forgiven?

Paula

Dear Paula,

You ask an excellent question.

At first glance it would appear that a paradox exits in Scripture regarding forgiveness. God has definitely forgiven all those who come to Him with true sincerity and have repented of their sins.

Here is a clarification: We are not asked to keep asking for forgiveness; but the Lord does ask us to confess our sins, to keep our relationship with Him strong. Notice the verse says: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

One meaning for the word “confess” is  “to agree with.” When we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with God that we have done something wrong, that we have sinned against Him.

So what  we have here is a relational situation where we come humbly before the Lord, acknowledge our sins out of reverence for Him, and that keeps our walk with the Lord strong and authentic. Being a true Christian is all about a personal relationship with Christ, and he wants to make sure we have a good one, so He asks us to confess our sins when we become aware of them.

It is not much different than if we offend a loved one. In order to keep the relationship healthy, we apologize or make amends. That person is still your loved one but to keep the relationship healthy and flowing smoothly, we take responsibility for our shortcomings.

All of our sins are forgiven in a positional manner when we receive Christ as Savior. His positional forgiveness guarantees our salvation and promises us our eternal future with Him in heaven. When we stand before God after we die, God will not deny us entrance into heaven because of our sin—that is positional forgiveness.

Relational forgiveness is based on the fact that when we sin, we offend God and grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), so we confess our sins as an expression of respect. While God has ultimately forgiven us of the sins we commit, ongoing sins result in a blocking or hindering our relationship with Him. And the Lord does not want anything to come between our relationship with Him.

Now if we died today and did not confess a sin, that is not an issue; we are already forgiven positionally. But as long as we are alive and breathing, we should keep that  personal relationship going and that means confessing our sins as best we can. We are not to be dogmatic about it, but we should be mindful of where we are in our walk with the Lord. Pleasing the Lord should be our utmost desire.

We should not dwell on this issue. Yes, we should confess our sins to the Lord as soon as we are aware that we have sinned. However, we do not need to be confessing our sins in some sort of obsessive legalistic way.

The apostle Paul encouraged us to “pray without ceasing.”

“Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

When we pray in our hearts throughout the day, we are more aware of the Lord’s presence in our lives—we stay more connected. This helps  keep that relationship on the front burner, so to speak. When we do slip up and fall into any kind of sin, we can stop for a few minutes—regardless of what we are doing, bow our heads and say, “Lord, I am so sorry. Please guide me and strengthen me so I do not fall into sin.”

When we do our best to live to please the Lord with a contrite heart we are honoring Him; when we fall, and we all do—then acknowledging our transgressions will keep our relationship with the Lord authentic. A contrite heart is needed to place us in a position of genuine repentance.

Confessing our sins is a guideline to help us stay on the right road in our walk with our precious Savior. It’s God’s way of loving us and helping His children stay close to Him.

Paula, I hope this response has helped clarify your concerns. Please don’t hesitate to reach out again any time.

In God’s love,

Esther

“But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.  I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness”(Romans 6:17-19).