Myths of Repentance #2
Myth #2: If I wait long enough, then that is equal to forgiveness
If you have not read the first blog post about Myth #1, please follow the link below and read it first, then come back and read about this myth.
The second myth usually goes something like this: I did something wrong; I have sinned against God, I have sinned against my brother or my sister. I have perhaps been involved with people who I should not have been involved with. I have made decisions that were wrong—sinful decisions.
And now—well, yes perhaps I am embarrassed about it. Yes, perhaps I know that I should ask for forgiveness, but now is not the right time to ask for forgiveness.
See, what I need to do is just wait, and wait, and wait... and after a while, that brother will forget what I said about him. That brother will forget the hard feelings, and then we will just sit down over coffee together and everything will be OK.
But that is still not taking care of the issue.
Friends, I want you to know this: it doesn’t matter how much time passes, time does not "heal all wounds." Contrary to what the world thinks, time cannot take care of sin.
We cannot simply sweep the sin under the carpet, and then just expect for the sin to "go away." We hide the sin, and hope that no one can see it. The problem is that God is not bound by time, and God can see through carpet.
And so—sure, that brother that you sinned against might move away to some distant land. He might become a missionary to someplace far away. Time and distance has separated you, but if you have never asked for his forgiveness, then your sin is still separating you from your God. All this worship that you are doing, all these “gifts" that you are laying before the altar, are meaningless to God.
Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. (Isa. 59:1-2)
These people were worshiping God and thought everything was fine in their lives, but God was not listening, because they still had sin in their lives that they hadn't repented of.
When I was about 12 years old, one day I was horsing around. I was throwing a football in my room and diving on the bed, trying to catch it, making like I was some professional football player. I had been told repeatedly not to throw the ball in the house.
On this one occasion, I threw the ball, jumped on the bed and my elbow hit the window beside the bed, and I broke the window.
I knew I had done wrong, but my thought process went like this: If I can put off the pain of admitting my mistake, then later the consequences won’t be so bad.
So, what did I do? I put a pillow over the hole in the window and I closed the curtains in hopes that my mom and dad would not see it, at least not until enough time had elapsed where it might not be quite so bad.
That event happened in the winter time, and for a few months I got away with it… until in the summer when my dad was outside mowing, and saw my broken window. After he found out what I had done, I got in even worse trouble for hiding my "sin" all that time.
Now, I know what you are thinking: "Well, that’s a cute story, but, come on Phillip, all kids do things like that! We all know that we want to put off trouble for as long as we can."
If you think this only happens to children, you'd better think again.
A few years ago, some brethren had gotten ahold of some bad information concerning a church and a good and faithful brotherhood work. These brethren, based upon some faulty information that they had heard from another brother, decided that they would simply withdraw fellowship from this congregation and from this good work.
So, they wrote a letter to the church and to that organization and said “due to the current sinful situation at the congregation and with this certain organization, we wish to have nothing to do with you.”
Well, I happened to be part of that organization when the letter arrived. I had not done anything wrong. Not one thing that these brethren were referencing had anything to do with me. The misinformation that they had heard had not one thing to do with me. And yet, here they were withdrawing fellowship from me.
So I wrote them a letter and said, “I understand that you are withdrawing fellowship from me, but please explain to me, why no one has ever come to talk to me about this so called sin. Also explain to me, why it is that you are withdrawing from me… what sin have I done that has caused you to withdraw from me? Please tell me, and if I have sinned I assure you that I will repent. The God who searches the hearts of men knows that if I have done anything wrong, I will make it right.”
And then I said, "As for the church that you mentioned as being in sin, please list on a piece of paper, the sin that they have done; please give the evidence you have to support your claim, and then please sign your name to the accusation. I will be glad to talk to the elders, and show them what the claim is about their sin to let them know that these men actually believe the elders have sinned.”
As far as I know, these men refused… one even said “we don’t need to discuss it.”
That happened many years ago and only one of those men ever came to me to discuss things. He told me that he knew that I had not done anything wrong… but he felt pressured by the other men to sign this withdrawal letter.
This penitent brother also went and talked to the elders of that (supposed sinful) congregation, and after discussing the situation, he repented of ever saying anything bad about them, and today he, myself and the (supposed sinful) congregation are all in fellowship with God.
But I have moved on… I don’t live in that area anymore. I have travelled all over the world since then, and I am still doing the Lord’s work, and the Lord is continuing to bless His work with me. Now, let me ask you a question:
Those men, who have refused to repent—those withdrawing men, who once the truth was known, still refused to acknowledge any wrong doing, has God forgotten their actions?
I mean, it has been several years… and I moved completely to a foreign land… I am now hundreds of miles from where the situation first existed. Question: Has their sin of dividing the brotherhood been forgiven, yes or no?
No! It has not been forgiven, because they have never come to me (with the exception of that one man), have never approached the elders of that church, and they have not received forgiveness, because they have never asked for forgiveness.
Someone says, “Yeah but Phillip, you should just forgive them anyway.” “C’mon Phillip, don’t you see that time has moved on, and you have moved on, and they have moved on?”
Yes, I see that. I know that. I understand that.
And yet their sin remains.
They go to church week after week after week… They offer up their gift before the altar as it were, and God still says: “If you have anything against your brother, go to him first” and make it right." They have not done step one, so they cannot proceed to step two. They must first accomplish step one.
As far as I know, they are still withdrawn from me, because none of them—even though I went to them to try to straighten the situation out—none (except the one) have ever asked for forgiveness.
Let's take a look at Luke 17:1-4:
And he said unto his disciples, It is impossible but that occasions of stumbling should come; but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were well for him if a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, rather than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble. Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother sin, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he sin against thee seven times in the day, and seven times turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
Notice a few things here. Peter had earlier asked the question, "Lord, how many times should we forgive our brother? Seven times in a day?" Jesus says no, 70 times 7! In other words, Jesus said that however many times he comes and asks for forgiveness, you must give it to him.
But I want us to see this today. Yes, I am willing to forgive, yes I have the heart of forgiveness—I even approached them to try to correct the situation, but they have never asked for forgiveness. How can I forgive someone if they never ask for it? Someone says, “Well, you can, and you should forgive them, even if they don’t ask for it.” How? How is that possible?
Even God cannot forgive someone until that person repents and asks to be forgiven. Jesus Christ called out on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But, were they forgiven? While he was hanging there on the cross, and he cried out those words… were they forgiven at that time or not?
Absolutely not. They weren’t forgiven, because they had not repented. I know they were not forgiven that day, because a while later, as recorded in Acts 2, Peter says to the crowd that day:
Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know; him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay. (Acts 2:22-23)
Peter says to them, “You took him and you killed him… you crucified the son of God!" But look at verse 36:
Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:36-38)
Notice that they were guilty of killing the son of God. Some time had passed. Days and months went by, but God still remembered their sin. And Peter convicts them of their sin. He rebukes them, as is told we are to do with people in sin in Luke 17:3. Peter rebukes them, and they ask, "What shall we do?"
Notice that they felt bad about it, but they weren’t forgiven yet. So they asked, “What shall we do?”
“Hey” Peter says, “look guys, it’s been a long time since that happened, and you guys have moved on… and Jesus has moved on… look, it is no longer an issue! Don’t worry about it so much.”
Is that what Peter said? No! Peter says, you need to “repent and be baptized.”
Folks, even Christ does not forgive people who do not ask for forgiveness. There is no amount of time that will magically forgive sin, regardless of whether you say “we have moved on…” or “Hey, Phillip is no longer with us, he is all the way on the other side of the world, so we have moved on.”
Jesus had moved on too! He had moved not to the other side of the world, but to a different world all together, and yet, their sin was still with them.
Of all the people who were there when they killed the son of God, they are guilty of the blood of Jesus Christ. We know that 3,000 of them repented, but it is estimated that there were millions of people in Jerusalem at the time.
Those Jewish Pharisees and Sadducees who were guilty of the blood of Christ, when Peter told them to seek forgiveness, suppose they said, “Well, you know Peter, we have moved on… and hey, Jesus is not even here anymore, so, it’s not even an issue!”
Question: Would God through Peter have said, “You are right, let’s just forget the whole thing happened. Let’s shake hands, and everything will be just fine”?
No! Peter said that you cannot be forgiven just because time has passed, and you cannot be forgiven just because that guy is no longer in your midst. If you want to be forgiven, you have to make things right, in the way the Lord said.
So it is today, that as you read this, maybe you have done something wrong in your past. Yes, 2 months have passed, 2 years have passed, 10 years have passed etc. They have moved on; you have moved on. And yet, things have not been made right. If that's the case, then friend, let me urge you: make it right.
Now, someone says, "Well, I know I did something wrong 20 years ago. I did something I should not have done, and that other person has died, and has gone on." Well, as far as seeking his forgiveness, it is impossible, and yet, you still must do what you can to make things right. You must still admit your sin to God, and make things right whenever you can.
If you stole 10,000 dollars from a bank, do you think that you can just wait it out, wait for enough time to pass, and God will just forgive you? Or do you need to go back to the bank, repent of the robbery, pay the earthly consequence of your sin, pay the money back (if possible) and make things right?
Or do you think you can just get on your knees, ask God to forgive you of your sin, and now all of a sudden you are forgiven, even though you can make things right? You simply don’t want to make things right.
Part of true repentance is making restitution when possible. If it is not possible to make restitution (someone has died, or you have no way to contact an individual), then God understands that. However, if you have the ability to make restitution, and you refuse to, then you have not yet humbled yourself enough to find forgiveness from God.
And so Myth #2, that says “I can just wait until time passes, move on, and that will be repentance” is found to be false. It simply is not true.
Come back next month for Myth #3 as we continue this series on “Myths of Repentance.”