His Mercies Are New Every Morning :: by Jack Kelley

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

There’s always been a pattern in the way God deals with man’s disobedience. This pattern was first seen in the Garden and appears repeatedly in the lives of the Patriarchs, in the history of Israel, and all through the Old Testament. Disobedience brought consequences, but confession brought forgiveness and a new beginning.

Take the case of Abraham. Lord had said to him, “Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go into a land I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). But Abraham took his father, his nephew Lot, and all their families with him, and went only as far as Haran, about half way, where they remained for several years.

After his father died, Abraham completed the journey, again with Lot and all the possessions and people they had acquired in Haran, finally arriving in Canaan many years after they first started out (Gen. 11:31 and 12:4-5).

But then Abraham and Sarah left the land God had brought them to and went to Egypt, where they acquired Hagar, an Egyptian handmaiden. \While they were there they got into trouble with Pharaoh for misrepresenting their relationship and were asked to leave the country.

Later, after waiting 18 years for the Lord to give them a son, Abraham and Sarah decided to take matters into their own hands. As a result Hagar became the first surrogate mother in recorded history, giving birth to Ishmael. And so Abraham, the first man to be called a Hebrew, caused the birth of the first Arab. The problems that created continue to this day.

Are You Going to Obey Me or Not?

Variations on the same theme continue in the lives of Isaac, Jacob, 11 of his 12 sons and ultimately in the history of the nation they founded. In fact the entire Old Testament can be summed up in one question. “Israel, are you going to obey Me or not?” (The answer was clearly no.)

For example, the land was given to Israel without condition (Gen.17:7-8), but to live there in peace and prosperity, they had to obey the Laws He gave them. When they didn’t, the Lord either permitted their enemies to rule over them or had them taken from the land altogether.Once these consequences were experienced and they had turned back to Him, the Lord helped them defeat their oppressors and return to their land.

Disobedience, consequence, confession, forgiveness, new beginning: this cycle was repeated over and over again. Israel’s disobedience caused periods of subjugation by Mesopotamia for 8 yrs (Judges 3:8), the Moabites for 18 yrs (Judges 3:12-14) the Canaanites for 20 years (Judges 4:2-3) the Midianites for 7 years (Judges 6:1) the Ammonites for 18 years (Judges 10:7-8) the Philistines for 40 years (Judges 13:1) expulsion by the Babylonians for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:8-11) subjugation again by the Greeks under Antiochus IV from 168-163 BC, and finally under the Romans both subjugation, beginning in 63 BC, and then expulsion (70-1948 AD).

Why Is He So Forgiving?

Why, when they continued to make the same mistakes over and over again did He always take them back? The answer is in Ezekiel 36:22. It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. It’s because He promised He would and His integrity is at stake. It was an eternal and unconditional promise that their periodic disobedience would not deter Him from keeping.

In the New Testament. the writer of Hebrews called Abraham a towering example of faith, omitting any mention of disobedience in summarizing his life (Hebrews 11:8-12). And Paul described Abraham as one whose faith was credited to him as righteousness, and who never wavered through unbelief (Romans 4:3, 20). It’s as if his acts of disobedience had never happened. How could that be?

“’The time is coming,’ declares the LORD,‘When I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD.

‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother,’ saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’declares the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’”

It’s because in Jeremiah 31:31-34, quoted above, God promised Israel a New Covenant that would permit Him to forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.That’s why there’s no mention of Abraham’s disobedience in the New Testament. The New Covenant has come and the Lord is making good on His promise to forgive everyone who asks and forget everything we’ve done.

(Now it’s true that Israel has not officially accepted this New Covenant, but for those like Abraham who have sought the Lord’s forgiveness, He has granted it.)

“Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

His mercies are still new every morning. No matter how big a mess we made yesterday, today is a brand new day.1 John 1:9 says all we have to do is ask and His forgiveness wipes the slate clean again.

“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:39-40).

That’s because we’re saved on the basis of our belief, not our behavior, and He’s promised not to lose any of us along the way, no matter what.

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor. 1:21-22).

All this happened before we had done a single thing, good or bad, in our life as a believer. We’re His and nothing can change that. These are unconditional promises, given by One Who cannot lie. His integrity is still at stake. After all, He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Are You Going to Believe Me or Not?

So just like He did with Israel, the Lord has made eternal and unconditional promises to the Church. These promises were so important to Him that He signed them in His own blood.But even so, some try to re-interpret them by adding conditions He never mentioned, or ignore them altogether in an attempt to make our salvation dependent on something other than our faith. Turns out the New Testament can be summed up in a single question, too. “Church, are you going to believe Me or not?”Sadly, for many the answer still seems to be no.

Union and Fellowship Expanded :: by Jack Kelley

I’m frequently asked why I believe we should continue confessing our sins after being born again, since all our sins are already forgiven. People who ask point out that 1 John 1:9 is the  only place this is mentioned and if it was so important wouldn’t Jesus have taught it?

Well it turns out 1 John 1:9 isn’t the only place confession is mentioned for believers and as a matter of fact Jesus did teach it. But before we get into that, let’s review what I call the two sided nature of our relationship with the Lord so you can see where the idea came from in the first place.

Union and Fellowship

I call one side Union. It’s eternal and unconditional, based only on our belief in the Lord. Ephesians 1:13-14 describes our Union with God, sealed and guaranteed. Once we’re born again, we can’t become unborn. We’re His forever. The Holy Spirit is sealed within us from our first moment of belief until the day of redemption to guarantee that.  2 Cor. 1:21-22 is even clearer, saying it’s God who makes us stand, and that he’s put His mark of ownership on us as well as sealing His Spirit in our hearts.

In 1 Cor. 6:19-20 Paul wrote, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” God purchased us with the blood of Jesus and then He put His mark on us. You could say after He bought us He branded us, like a rancher brands his cattle, as proof of ownership.  We’re His forever. We’ve covered these verses many times in support of the Bible’s promise of eternal security.

I call the other side Fellowship and it’s a bit more complicated. Fellowship is that state of closeness to God that enables Him to bless us in our daily lives in the here and now, both by protecting us from enemy attacks and by making good things happen for us (Romans 8:28). It’s like He’s taken our side to give us a supernatural advantage.

Fellowship is defined by 1 John 1:8-9 as being both earthly and conditional upon our behavior. Even as believers, as long as we’re here on earth we’ll continue to sin (Romans 7:18-20).  Since God can’t abide the presence of sin (Habakkuk 1:13), our unconfessed sins can interrupt our earthly relationship with Him and deprive us of blessings we might have otherwise received.

Because of our Union with God we’ll still be saved in the eternal sense, but here on Earth we’ll be out of Fellowship.  And when we’re out of Fellowship, we have to make it on our own while being legitimate targets for our enemy’s mischief. The remedy is to confess when we sin so we can be restored.

One reason that many Christians live such defeated lives is that having only learned about the Union part of being a believer, they only know that God has forgiven their sins and that they’ll go to be with Him when they die or are raptured. They don’t realize that they still need regular confession to stay in Fellowship here in the mean time.

Now by defeated lives, I mean they lack the spiritual success all Christians are promised (John 10:10). They might be doing all right from a worldly perspective, although many are deprived even of that, but their lives do not reflect the Spiritual well being for which there is no substitute in worldly living. Nor do they feel the sense of peace and satisfaction that we all desire.

Where Did This Idea Come From?

Union and Fellowship are not just New Testament ideas. Consider the plight of Job, a man of God and the main character in the oldest book of the Bible. He was such a good man that God bragged to Satan about him. But he was not perfect. His sin was self-righteousness and what he said to his friends  proves it.

“Although I am blameless, I have no concern for myself; I despise my own life.” (Job 9:21).

(Speaking to God) “Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands … though you know that I am not guilty?” Job 10:3,7

(To his friends again)“I have become a laughingstock to my friends, though I called upon God and he answered—a mere laughingstock, though righteous and blameless!” (Job 12:4).

I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live. (Job 27:6).

In addition all 41 verses of Job 31 are devoted to Job giving evidence of his righteousness.

Because he wouldn’t confess his sin, he was out of fellowship. When asked to do so, God had to let Satan afflict him in order to bring him to his senses. Once Job confessed (Job 42:1-6), he was restored (Job 42:10-17).  Even though he was the most righteous man on Earth, Job still had to confess to be restored to fellowship with God.

Later, in Old Covenant times, the priests had to sacrifice a lamb on the altar every morning and every evening for the sins of the people. Even though God was dwelling among them and providing for all their needs, the Israelites still had to perform a twice daily sacrifice for sin to stay in His good graces.

1 John 1:9 is the New Testament equivalent of those daily sacrifices for sin. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

This verse was written for believers who are forever saved, but are in danger of being out of Fellowship because of their sins. When we confess in faith, we’re immediately forgiven and purified from all unrighteousness.

This is the real underlying issue of Hebrews 6:4-6. We know this because in the preceding verses the writer said he was leaving elementary teachings about Christ and going on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, etc (Hebrews 6:1-3). This alone tells us he wasn’t talking about our salvation in verses 4-6.

The key is the phrase “renew again to repentance” in verse 6.  Jewish believers were being pressured into keeping the law, especially where it concerned the sacrifice for sin. Those who relied on sacrificial lambs instead of confessing directly to God were in effect crucifying the Lord all over again, since He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

The daily sacrifice was a foreshadowing of Him, and when He came the shadow gave way to the reality. The old way was no longer sufficient to restore them to fellowship.  All a believer needs to do now is offer a prayer of confession to be purified from  his or her unrighteousness.

What Did Jesus Say?

The Lord had quite a bit to say about this. For example, at the end of His teaching on the Lord’s prayer, He said,  “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matt. 6:14-15).  In Matt. 6:9 Jesus said to begin our prayers with the salutation “Our Father”  and in verses 14 and 15 He called God “your heavenly father” and “your father”.

John 1:12-13 says only we who receive the Lord and believe in His name have the authority to become children of God, and therefore to call Him Father.  Romans 8:15-16 and Galatians 4:4-6 confirm this.  That makes the Lord’s Prayer a prayer for believers only.  But if we’re believers we’ve already been forgiven, so how could Jesus warn us that  our Father would not forgive our sins unless we forgive everyone who sins against us?

Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to forgive everyone else before we can ask for our own salvation.  We have only to believe we’re sinners and that the Lord died for our sins and rose again to ask for and receive eternal life.

The answer can be found in Matt. 18:21-35, the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.   It’s about a king who, in the process of settling his accounts with his servants, discovered a servant  who owed more than he could possibly pay.

The King ordered that the servant, his wife and children and everything they owned be sold to pay off the debt. The servant begged for mercy and for the time he would need to find a way to pay everything back. The king took pity on him and canceled the debt entirely.

As the servant was leaving he came across a fellow servant who owed him a few dollars. He immediately demanded payment.  When the fellow servant begged for patience, he refused and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay off the full amount.

Other servants heard about this and told the king what had happened. The king was enraged because he had forgiven his servant everything, and now the servant refused to forgive a fellow servant even a little thing.  He had the forgiven servant turned over to the jailer to be tortured until he could pay off his debt to the king.

Jesus ended the parable by saying, “This is how My Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matt. 18:35).

Parables have been called heavenly stories placed in an earthly context. They’re meant to teach a divine truth in a way that earth bound humans can understand it. Every character and major component of the parable is symbolic of something else.  In this parable the King represents the Lord, the servants are you and me, the debt is our accumulated sin, and the jailer is Satan.

We’ve been forgiven everything, but when we refuse to forgive each other even a little thing it creates a debt of sin that suspends our relationship with the Lord until we repay the debt. We don’t stop being one of His children (the servant wasn’t discharged or sold) but during that time we’re out of fellowship with the Lord.

We may not receive blessings that would otherwise be ours and like Job we can even be open to attack.  But thanks to what the Lord has done for us, we can repay the debt by confessing our sin.  Sincere confession purifies us from all unrighteousness and restores us to Fellowship.

Now let’s look at the parable of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32) Seeking a life of independence from his father, the Prodigal Son left his father’s house and struck out on his own. He had soon squandered his wealth in wild living and would have happily traded places with one of his father’s hired hands. Swallowing his pride, he returned to his father’s house where he confessed and was immediately restored.

While He was away, he never stopped being his father’s son (Union), but during that time there was no communication and he didn’t receive any of the blessings that might have been his had he remained in his father’s house (Fellowship).

Like the Prodigal Son, we still belong to our Father’s family while we’re out of Fellowship with Him, but there won’t be any communication and we won’t receive the blessings we might have otherwise had.  And like the Prodigal, when we return to our Father and confess our sins, we’re immediately purified from all unrighteousness and restored to Fellowship.

Since Paul clearly taught that our salvation is guaranteed from the moment we believe, we also have to understand that all his teaching on proper Christian living was to help us stay in fellowship with God and was not meant to imply that keeping our salvation requires that we maintain a certain standard of behavior.  This thought is beautifully summarized in Phil. 3:16where he said, “Let us live up to what we have already attained.”

Why Do We Resist?

Since the penalty for all the sins of our life is already paid (Colossians 2:13-14) and therefore there is no more condemnation for us (Romans 8:1), why do many believers resist the idea of confessing when they sin? Don’t they know forgiveness is automatic? What’s the problem?

One reason is lack of knowledge. Most people have never been taught about this.  They’ve learned how to be saved, which brings Union with God, but they haven’t learned about the importance of staying in Fellowship with Him. Paul taught that becoming a believer is only step one in achieving an intimate relationship with God.

It’s what qualifies us to become one of His children, but many, many more blessings are available to those who go on to live victorious lives (1 Cor. 9:24-27).  Along the way we stumble repeatedly, and when we do confession wipes the slate clean again and it’s like our stumbling never happened.

But there’s also a fair amount of pride contained in our fallen human state. Having to repeatedly admit to being a sinner can be embarrassing even when we’re only admitting it to God who already knows all about us and saved us anyway. That pride itself is a sin that interrupts our fellowship.

And finally, at least in the US, there are still many believers who have it too good to even realize they’re out of fellowship. They judge themselves the way others judge them, by worldly standards, and think they’re okay. They never stop to consider their lack of spiritual wealth.

Jesus was warning us about being out of fellowship when He said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He said if we don’t remain in Him, we’ll be like a withered branch, unfruitful, no matter what we think we’ve accomplished. At the Bema Seat judgment believers like this will discover that whatever worldly success they achieved is meaningless in the Kingdom, and their life as a believer is mostly devoid of eternal value.

What’s the Point?

Because of our unbreakable Union with God we never have to worry about losing our salvation. Nor do we have to wonder if we’ll be included in the rapture. But to make our relationship with Him here on earth as good as it can be and to accomplish all that He desires of us requires that we confess when we sin so that we never find ourselves out of Fellowship with Him.

Confessing when we sin is like apologizing to a loved one. You know you’ll be forgiven but you feel bad about disappointing someone you love and want to make sure you’ve restored the relationship to its previous condition. Confession. It really is good for the soul.