Some things hold us back. Not getting a college education immediately after high school held me back from jobs paying much more that what I earned in entry level jobs. Not having good examples to follow in relationships can hold us back in developing healthy relationships. Fences can keep us off designated property, and bad attitudes can hold us back from any number of areas. And some things keep us from moving ahead in God’s work.
Believe God Forgets Your Sin
“I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds” (Hebrews 10:17 NLT).
I stared at her, but her name wouldn’t come. The fact that I had taught her for three years made no difference. Obviously, she noticed my blank stare. With a smirk on her face, she remarked, “Have you forgotten my name?” Returning her smirky smile, I replied, “How could you tell?”
Memory lapses are a part of aging. Since I’ve always had an excellent memory, these momentary lapses disturb me. While I know they come with age—especially the forgetting of names, I can’t help but wonder if they’re not foreboding shadows of some dreaded disease. Some things in my past I want to forget: unkind remarks, sinful acts, unhealthy relationship decisions, unwise disciplinary decisions made with children. But others I don’t. Such as what day it is. Or month. My wife’s name and birthday. Our anniversary. My address. Important things.
Old Testament worshipers never had the assurance God forgot their sins. Repeatedly bringing animals for a priest to slaughter on an altar constantly reminded them. The blood ran, but their sins didn’t. The animal died, but the feeling that something wasn’t quite right between them and God remained. They wanted to forget…but couldn’t.
God is in the business of forgetting. Not that he is old and losing his memory—although he has been around forever. He forgets on purpose, and since he is God, forgetting is something he must purposefully do—not something that happens because of his age. He doesn’t forget the important things such as my name, that I belong to him, that he’s promised to meet my needs and see me through every trial, or that his Son has died for my sins.
What God does forget are our sins. The ones we’ve confessed and repented of. The ones we’ve allowed the blood of his Son—not some animal—to cover. He forgets on purpose the ways we’ve failed him, so he can use us in the present. Confession and repentance is all it takes to make God forget our sins.
Believe You Can Do God’s Will
“Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God’” (Hebrews 10:7 NLT).
For a long time, Mark had been running from God. Though reared in a Christian home, he decided he’d like to try the other side for a while. He had no trouble finding friends who would lead him in that direction. For seven years, he dabbled in addictive substances and frequented places he should’ve left alone. Though his conscience bothered him, substances had a way of softening the blow.
Finally, God captured his attention. Soon after he recommitted his life to Christ, he felt the tug of God’s call into ministry—a call he had heard long ago but ignored. After all, he had just married. Maybe his wife would say, “I didn’t sign on for this.” He tried ignoring the call, but the tug intensified. When he couldn’t run any longer, he spilled the beans: “God has called me into the ministry.” Happily, she agreed to follow him to college and then to the churches he later pastored.
Like Mark, Jesus too struggled with doing his Father’s will. Gradually, his purpose for being on earth unfolded. Then came the stark realization that his purpose would only be complete after being brutally abused and hung on a cross. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he pleaded for another way. God didn’t budge.
God’s ultimate will for me is that I repent of my sins and trust him as Savior. The decision in itself is simple but making it can be difficult. I’ve relished in sin’s temporary delight. Giving up what appears to make me happy sometimes takes a good dose of God’s discipline. Yet, God’s will entails more than just my one-time repentance. He has a plan and purpose. I’m a masterpiece in the making, but I have to cooperate.
Determining to follow God’s will is a conscious decision. Putting aside those sinful practices or useless things that seem to bring pleasure is a must. The good news is that when we make this decision, God will broadcast his power throughout our minds, wills, and emotions. Like Jesus, we’ll be able to say, “Not my will but Yours be done.”
Believe God Enjoys Fellowship with You
“And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him” (Hebrews 10:21-22 NLT).
She lived on the wrong side of the tracks, but an invitation from a distant relative changed her life.
Susie’s life was mediocre at best. She lived in an uneventful tiny town, graduated from a petite high school, and took a job as a seamstress at a local small business. Life changed, however, when her sister and brother-in-law were tragically killed, leaving two small children for her to care for.
The children were more than a handful. One day—when life was overwhelmingly hectic—the doorbell rang. When she cracked the door, a well-dressed gentleman stood before her. With an English accent, he identified himself as the butler for her deceased brother-in-law’s grandfather—the one who had disowned him because he married her sister—a commoner. The sourpuss grandfather was a duke and lived in a castle. But he’d had a change of heart. He wanted to see the grandchildren he’d never laid eyes on. So off to England, she and the children went for a grand time.
God issues a similar invitation as the less-than-tolerable grandfather. He invites those who believe to come right into his holy presence, trusting he will accept them when they arrive. I’ve received quite a few invitations in my lifetime. None special. Just the normal ones. Wedding invitations. Baby showers. Graduation ceremonies. Many of them requiring gifts.
God’s invitation to dine with him has only one stipulation: belief. If we come to his banquet with Jesus in our heart, we’re welcomed as if we were the most important person in the world. No reason to fear. No room for doubt. Just a clear conscience that all is well between our Creator and us.
Many of my invitations were sent to my wife and me. I didn’t have to attend alone. God also gives us the privilege of bringing others with us to his eternal home if they’ll believe as we have.
Believe in the Magic of Encouragement
“Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24 NLT).
Every parent has dreams and aspirations for their first child. They will change the world… make a life-changing invention…invent a cure for a deadly disease…be world known for their charitable acts.
Mine encouraged me to be responsible and fostered it by giving me chores to do. When I came of age, they encouraged me to get a part-time job. This would teach me the value of working for what I wanted and remind me that life’s journey isn’t free. They also encouraged me to have a good credit rating and ensured I would by making me purchase an item on credit when I was a mere sixteen years old. Then there was the encouragement to attend college. This one I bucked them on initially but later recanted and went. My parents also encouraged me to follow God’s plan for my life. I can’t imagine having grown up without the encouragement to look life squarely in the eyes and be my best.
Early Christians needed encouragement from each other and from their leaders. Persecution was rampant. Many were losing their lives. They had heard Christ would return quickly, but so far he hadn’t. How could they keep going when there were so many reasons to turn their backs on this supposed Messiah, Jesus?
One of the best places to find encouragement is at a local church. Here, we find people on a similar journey as we are. They’ve listened to Jesus’ command to deny self, take up their cross, and follow him. They also remember his word of warning that in this world they would always face persecution because they’ve chosen to follow him.
But they also repeatedly hear his promise that he’ll never leave or turn his back on them. Since we can’t experience Christ with our five senses, experiencing him through fellow believers who encourage us is the next best thing.
The journey through God’s earthly kingdom is splattered with mountains and valleys, but encouragement from others helps us put one foot in front of the other.