Friday, May 28, 2010

sin & forgiveness

OK, sin and forgiveness is a huge topic . . . but they are what I have been studying in my Bible study homework the last couple of weeks and so I have been thinking about them a lot. I mean, they are not new concepts to me. Growing up in the church, I have always talked about these things and used these words, but the last couple of weeks have been a time when my understanding of them went to a new place. (I really do love it when God takes things I have known about for years and helps me to understand them better in my own life.)

Really, I have been challenged to see that those times when I am facing temptation to sin, I am standing at a crossroads where I can either make the decision to follow God or I can make the decision to give in to my sin. My Bible study homework has been focused on a very well-known Bible story: David & Bathsheba. The account of David & Bathsheba, found in 2 Samuel 11, is really a story of a man who finds himself at many crossroads:
  • David choosing to stay home when Kings usually went out to battle at this time
  • David seeing Bathsheba when she was bathing and inquiring about who Bathsheba was
  • David having Bathsheba come to him and sleeping with her
  • David having Uriah, Bathsheba's husband brought home from battle to try to cover up his getting Bathsheba pregnant
  • David getting Uriah drunk to try to get him to go home to his wife so that he would think that the child Bathsheba was carrying was his
  • David setting Uriah up to be killed in battle
In all of these situations - these crossroads - David could have made a decision not to act in a sinful way. He could have chosen to ignore the woman he had seen bathing. He could have chosen to sleep with one of his wives rather than Bathsheba. He could have chosen to admit his sin and that the child Bathsheba was carrying was his. He could have chosen to let Uriah live and learn from Uriah's integrity.

I wonder how many times we find ourselves in the same situation as David. Maybe we are not looking at another man's wife and making wrong decisions there, as David did, but just the same we are at a crossroads where we have a decision to make. There are many decisions we could be making, and we always have the choice about whether to go the way of sin or to go the way that God calls us to go.

Oftentimes, it can seem much more appealing at those crossroads to go the way of sin. It satisfies our immediate desires. But, what we often do not realize is that sin has serious consequences. David did not get away with his sin. 2 Samuel 12 records Nathan, the prophet, confronting David about his sin and the consequences that David would experience.

Fortunately for David, he made the right choice at this crossroads. When Nathan confronted him with his sin, David acknowledged and repented of his sin. But, that does not mean he did not still experience the consequences and God's judgement of his sin. God's forgiveness did not wipe it out like it had never happened. But, it did allow for David's relationship with God to be restored and for good to come about in the end (Bathsheba would later give birth to Solomon - the next King of Israel), but in the meantime there were both immediate and long term consequences of David's sin.

Psalm 51 records David's cry to God for forgiveness of his sin. David knew God and he knew that he could ask God for forgiveness and for a second chance. It may not have meant that the consequences disappeared, but David knew that God did not despise a broken and contrite heart that truly desired to turn from sin and follow God again. The same is true for us today.

As I have studied these passages and this familiar story this week, I have been challenged in my own life with a few questions that really make you think:

When you find yourself at a crossroads in your life, what is your usual response? Do you take the "easy" way and follow the path to sin? Or do you follow God, even if it is more difficult?

Are you at a crossroads in your life right now? What are your choices? Which choice is the one that you know God is telling you to take? Are you going to take that choice or the other one?

If you have made a bad decision at a crossroad and now find yourself caught up in sin, what are you going to do? Are you going to face up to your sin and the consequences? Are you going to ask God for forgiveness and move towards Him again? Or are you going to choose to keep going down the same path?

Remember, God's forgiveness is there. And it is available to us no matter how far we feel we have strayed. It is never too far for us to return to God.

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