The Bible’s teaching on forgiveness can seem confusing. Even contradictory. In fact, over the years I’ve heard one question more than any other.
On one hand we have the marvelous promise that once we believe the gospel message—that Jesus died for our sins and rose again—we have forgiveness of all our sins.
All of them.
But that begs a question: If Jesus has already paid for our sins, why then does the Bible tell us to confess our sins for forgiveness?
It’s because the Bible teaches two kinds of forgiveness.
Do you understand the difference?
Several years ago I found myself at odds with someone. This individual had spoken severely to our daughter, and I confronted this person with the truth—but in anger, and I failed to speak truth in love.
Later, I tried to get together and talk it through. I knew I needed to ask for forgiveness for how I said what I said. But those in authority asked me to leave it alone until later. Although I tried to comply at first, I felt miserable keeping quiet. I came to realize I needed to ask forgiveness, no matter what.
The only way I felt I could honor both the Lord and those in authority came by writing a letter and asking for forgiveness. I never heard back from the individual, nor did I expect to or need to. But I needed to do my part. I needed to reach out.
But it was tough.
In the workplace, in our churches, and in the government, we expect accountability. And yet in our personal lives, accountability often strikes us as a negative thing.
That’s natural, I guess. Even in the Christian life, we expect others to do what’s right, but we often give ourselves a hall pass because our motives are good. Yet in holding this double standard, we can miss a huge benefit of growing in the Christian life.
In a previous post, I shared 3 benefits to having an accountability group. Committing to a group who will ask accountability questions really is nothing more than asking others to encourage you in the essential areas where you want to succeed in the Christian life. More than anything, accountability questions help you to be who you really want to be.
Here are the 10 accountability questions my group asks each week as well as a link for you to download the list.
For the past 10 years, I have met weekly with 8 other Christian men in our neighborhood for Bible Study, prayer, and accountability.
(Photo: My group)
I recently commented on Michael Hyatt’s blog about the accountability questions our groups asks each week, and he encouraged me to blog about it. Honestly, I had never thought about that, but it makes total sense.
Too often, accountability takes on a negative slant as we picture ourselves surrounded by pointing fingers and a spotlight of condemnation.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
I want to share with you 3 benefits to having an accountability group that can help you in our Christian life.
It started when we were kids. We still deal with it in today. We fail to receive love, and we drag bruised emotions behind us for years, still aching for affirmation.
Before we know it, our attitude becomes: “Who will make me feel good today?” Oh, we won’t say that, but we seek it. The result? We get to feeling depressed.
It’s not only relationships that challenge our joy. I remember reading about a woman who suffered from a disease of chronic fatigue. She decided to perform on herself the ancient procedure of trepanning—the cutting away a section of the scalp and drilling into the skull. After the operation she made a statement.
I was prone to occasional bouts of depression and felt something radical needed to be done.
When you’re feeling depressed—for whatever reason—and you need to do something, here’s what you can do.
And what you should never do.
In King David’s day, the city of Jerusalem stood as a renovation and expansion of Jebus, a site the Hebrews never occupied in the territory of Benjamin.
Those who come to Jerusalem today for the first time are often surprised to learn that the original Jerusalem, “The City of David,” sat on a mere ten acres just south of the Temple Mount. Hardly impressive, it looks like some third-world neighborhood.
Steep slopes surround the City of David and gave it in a strategic advantage during any military threat. So much so, the inhabitants of Jebus felt confident “David cannot enter here” (2 Samuel 5:6). But he did, and David made the site his new capital.
The steep slopes became King David’s military strength.
But the slopes also played into his moral weakness. Here’s how.
A couple of months ago I noticed the “maintenance” light come on in my car. That meant the oil and filter needed changing. I thought, Yeah, I’ll do that soon. Right.
About a month went by and I thought: You know, I need to deal with that. I forgot again. It wasn’t until a couple weeks later I finally got it changed. I put it off because I’m a busy guy—and hey, oil and filters can always wait another day.
But then another warning light went off. This one was serious.
I heard them board the airplane before I saw them. A mother was pushing one toddler in front of her and dragging another behind. The only available seats were the three right in front of me.
I had never considered childproof locks on airline seatbelts. Now, I’m certain there’s a market for them. I would have bought one.
(Picture: Meet Theo.)
For more than two straight hours I watched the younger son—who reminded me of Bugs Bunny’s Tasmanian devil—jump, flail, thrash, flap, flop, hop, laugh—but mostly, scream. I don’t remember the name of the older son.
But I’ll never forget the Tasmanian devil’s name: “Theo.” I know because I heard it 863 times.
Absolutely undaunted, the mother used her large voice without embarrassment to correct Theo. She also informed the rest of us what was about to happen.
Once after Theo took his crayon and marked on the wall of the airplane (see the mark on the wall at left?), she jerked him from the window seat and announced to the rest of us, “Sorry about the screaming for the next 10 minutes, folks!” She was right. Little Theo let us have it.
First, Second, and Third Reactions
- My first reaction was to wonder why the mother hadn’t brought along a gallon of Tylenol PM. (If not for Theo, then for the rest of us.)
- My second reaction to this irritation was—I confess—frustration and resentment. After all, I paid just as much for my loud seat as the lucky people in the quiet part of the plane.
- But my third reaction took my attitude in a completely different direction.
God boarded the plane at that moment and somehow found room in my narrow heart.
Close one eye and look closely at a marble. It seems massive. In fact, the marble is all you see. It dwarfs everything else. But its size is an illusion.
A basketball is bigger. The planet earth is even bigger. Come to think of it, God is infinitely bigger than your marble. Your problems are like that.
(Photo by Sarah Charlesworth, CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Life is filled with marbles. When you fixate on your marbles, you can’t see the reality that they are small in comparison to God’s power.
Sure, they’re real. Of course they hurt. But your life is more than your problems, just as the world is more than your marbles. Or it can be. You can stop staring at your marbles. You only need to sit up, blink a few times, and look around.
God is much bigger than your marbles.
When I first picked up this book, I assumed it would be a lighthearted look at rejection. (Though, I’m not sure how.) It wasn’t.
Instead, Downside Up connected with the ugly reality we face in relationships. In some way, rejection has cut us all—leaving scars of all sizes—and some of us still bleed every day in our work, marriages, friends, churches, and even written correspondence.
Sometimes others’ rejection of us is intentional, but occasionally, it also represents our own inflated sensitivity. Regardless, the rejection we feel is real. By the way, I guess I could feel rejected as a man that the book seems to address women primarily (as does the promo video above), but there’s a lot here for men too.
Tracey Mitchell’s book does more than examine rejection from these various avenues of entry. Each chapter concludes with elements that I found the most helpful parts of the book:
- Chapter Principles—if you read nothing but these, you’d get a good, general sense of the chapter’s contents as well as some great takeaways for application and renewing the mind against the raw feelings that rejection often brings. Super, super stuff here. These little nuggets are the best part of the book.
- Words of Wisdom—offers a simple Bible verse that relates to the chapter’s theme. Good for memorization and even better for meditation.
- Power Quote—a quote from various individuals that says in a few words something worth thinking about.
- Plan of Action—offers a direct application to do what the book’s title says we should do with rejection: turn it upside-down.
My opinion was turned upside down after I read Downside Up.
If rejection is something that’s eating you, you’ll find encouragement here.
By the way, I received this book from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. The review is my honest opinion. The FTC requires I tell you. See 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”