Friday, September 24, 2010

A Deep Cleansing

Matthew 6:6 encourages us to pray behind closed doors. This is something I do quite regularly. When I pray in private, it’s usually at the end of my day as I lay in bed ready for sleep. Sometimes I think about my day and share my thoughts and feelings or reactions with God. Lying awake at night, the Holy Spirit will put people on my heart. Without knowing a thing, I’ll pray for them during the night, and then hear about their struggles the morning after. Still, there are times I can’t sleep because the Lord has brought some unconfessed sin to my attention and don’t feel at ease until I deal with it through prayer. After I’ve spent the night confessing my sins to God, I usually wake up the next morning feeling guilty and beating myself up over the previous night’s prayer of forgiveness. King David reminds us that doing so isn’t necessary. In Psalm 103 he writes:

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
Psalm 103:8-12 NLT

Here, we learn how God treats someone with a truly repentant heart. Verse 8 says He is compassionate and shows us mercy. Charles Finney describes mercy as an act that frees a guilty party. Its exercise consists in arresting and setting aside the penalty of law, when that penalty has been incurred by transgression. What this means is, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and we bring it to God asking for His forgiveness, having compassion on us, He withholds the punishment we would have received for disappointing Him.

The psalm continues by reminding us when we confess our sins, the Lord doesn’t bring it up again. After we deal with our sin in prayer, He forgets about it. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 says that love is patient and kind. True love doesn’t annoy us by bringing up our past sins. It won’t because true love doesn’t keep a record of our mistakes. When we ask God to forgive us He wipes the slate clean. David knew this and reminds us by saying just how far God removes our sins. Verse 12 tells us that God removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. David uses this as a metaphor. An aspect of God’s forgiveness includes having our sin permanently gone. Cast away, never to be found again.

Suppose you wanted to find the exact point that east turns into west. So you begin by traveling east, hoping to pinpoint the very moment your compass tells you you’re now traveling west. You could continue in that direction forever. The truth is at no point in that journey would you be traveling west. The same thing would happen if you traveled east. You wouldn’t be able to pinpoint the moment you travel west. You won’t find it because no such point exists. God does the same thing with our sin. When we confess our sins to God, He takes our convictions and throws them away. From that point on they are impossible to find.

I’d like to say every time the Holy Spirit convicts me of my sins, I deal with it right away. Sadly, that’s not always true. Sometimes I ignore the Holy Spirit’s nudging. When I do, I wake up the next morning still prompted to spend time before God asking Him to cleanse me of the sin that separates us. This usually continues until I seek the Lord’s forgiveness.

1 John 1:8-9 says: “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” How have the last few days been for you? Do you have an overwhelming sense of guilt you can never escape? If so, please spend some time before God in prayer. It could be the Holy Spirit convicting you of an unforgiven sin.

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