Am I Guilty or Just Misunderstood? (Lane)
Am I Guilty or Just Misunderstood?
by Lonnie Lane
The core issue of One New Man (Eph 2:14,15) that supersedes all other issues is to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10). I love that verse. It anchors me. It gives me a goal for each day. Three of them, in fact. I’m aware of wanting to please God and make Him smile, of doing “good work” and of staying God-minded so that each day my understanding or my experiential knowledge of Him increases. As this new year begins, why not keep a journal of what you experienced, thought, learned or enjoyed of God each day. Pray this verse in the morning (“Lord, help me to walk….”) and write in your journal, perhaps at the end of the day what you’ve learned of God. Watch and see how He makes you more aware of Him and how He “daily loadeth us with benefits” (Ps 68:19 KJV).
Becoming more aware of God is to be more aware of His attributes, which surely includes His goodness to us. I love looking for God’s thoughtfulness to me during the day. It abounds! Since I don’t believe in coincidences, I’m quite sure it’s God who reminds me of things or lets me find something I didn’t know was lost until I found it. As they say, God is in the details, even the little seemingly insignificant details of life. I’m convinced He loves doing stuff like that for us, and especially when we delight in His oh so personal attention to us and tell Him so. It’s making me smile just thinking about it. About Him.
Increased awareness of God also sensitizes us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). From the days when God first separated light from darkness, He has been making us aware of what is good and what is not. He kept Israel separated unto themselves so He could hew out of the world a people for Himself who would walk in His ways. When He opened the door to the Gentiles through Messiah Yeshua, they too could turn away from ungodliness to walk in God’s ways. The message of the Kingdom of God has always been that through repentance one could turn to God and live their lives according to His ways. Once the Holy Spirit came upon God’s people at Pentecost, they were no longer separated away from the world, but went into it and the world responded to their message and the world was changed!
Wherever the church has held to the Scriptures, the church has thrived and been a moral standard for the society around them. Whenever the Scriptures were honored, the society was blessed. The church, in other words, affected the society for good, being an example of righteousness and God’s holiness and therefore all were the benefactors of His blessings. But where the devil gets God’s people to believe a lie instead of the truth of Scripture, both the church and the society around them suffer loss. It’s no news to you that lies are the devil’s ways, and that he’s a Scripture-twister. Well, we have taken a bite of his apple of deception and swallowed a big lie, not realizing it contained (eternal) life-threatening poison.
The original apple-trick was about Adam and Eve partaking of something God warned would cause them to die. Because they didn’t die right away, and neither do we generally when we partake of a lie, we often miss the cause and effect, and think there is no consequence. So with this lie that has been offered to us of which we have partaken. It is this: That we are guilty of seeing what was once identified as sin is no longer seen as sin but as illness. We live in a culture that tends to say we’re not sinners, we’re sick. We’re also told, we’re not guilty, we’ve just been misunderstood. We’re excused of our sin because it really wasn’t our fault. It was someone else’s. It may be that we were abused or mistreated and that’s why we’re acting as we are so we can’t be blamed for it really.
I remember many years ago, B.Y. in my life (before Yeshua), I was seeing a counselor and it was conveyed to me that my maladies were caused by my parents who didn’t properly parent me. It was obvious too that their parents didn’t parent them properly either. I began to wonder if my sweet loving grandmother went into therapy and found out where she had failed, would that make me feel better? And would she find that it was her own parents fault too? Where did it end? (These questions were only answered when I found the Lord and found out that Adam and Eve could be held responsible for the Fall and every generation since.) I left therapy thinking that it was buck-passing and therefore couldn’t really help me to feel better. My only hope was to change myself, not my parents or grandparents. In retrospect, I can see God’s hand in showing me that as He carved out a God-shaped hole in my soul, He was preparing me so He could come and fill up that empty place with Himself.
Was I able to “fix” me? Only somewhat, but it sure didn’t bring me the peace that coming to the Lord did. I wasn’t really able to move forward until I came to see that I was culpable, I was the guilty one, and I needed to repent to God and tell Him I was sorry for where I had violated His commandments and His Word. I found release of old stressors and conflicts when I asked God to forgive me for my unloving attitudes, instead of justifying them because someone else wasn’t loving as I thought I needed them to be. Repentance was the key that tripped the lock and opened the door to release, relief and peace in my soul.
But instead of repenting and being done with it, too often we’re trying to recover from a childhood we see as an illness. One report I read says that there are over 500,000 meetings that occur each week in America to help people recover from what they see as victimization. Somehow someone did something to them that has made them behave in a way that is making them feel not “at home” with themselves. However, bitterness toward one’s father or mother is something to be repented of according to numerous Scriptures. Bitterness toward anyone is to be repented of, but especially against one’s parents. Fathers, according to Torah, were meant to be the main source of loving authority, but are often labeled as the chief victimizing devil instead. This alone creates a huge imbalance in the family as God intended it, even for adult children toward their parents. This is not to give license to abusive fathers, but neither does it give justification for maintaining bitterness or unforgiveness. Children who remain angry with their parents all too often turn into parents who cause their own children to be angry with them. The antidote: Repentance and forgiveness.
Torah provides recovery through repentance and restitution by the offender to the offended person. Justice is always high on God’s priority list. “Righteousness and justice are the (very) foundation of (His) throne” (Psalm 89:14 my emphasis). Issues of justice were the first thing He talked to Israel about when they entered the promised land. But today, the way we see sin is to have sympathy with it. Even our criminal system works against godly repentance in order to be restored and made whole. The law has shifted from the idea of justice to one of therapy. This shift sees the criminal as a victim in need of rehabilitation rather than as a culprit in need of punishment. The cause is removed that might cause him to feel the weight of the consequences of his behavior. If he is a victim, there is no reason to repent and to commit to changing his ways out of a realization that his violation is against God as well as man. And so he remains ever the victim, justifying his behavior rather than accepting responsibility for it in order to turn from it.
A culprit is someone who is guilty of a moral violation, one who is responsible for his transgression. But a victim bears no moral responsibility for his violation. After all, what he has done has arisen from something he has suffered. It’s not his fault. You might be interested to know that the word “victim” derives from the Latin victima, meaning a “person killed as a sacrifice to a god.” The meaning implies that the person has not suffered a legitimate punishment for a wrongdoing, but rather has been unwillingly sacrificed to the god unjustly, through no fault or intention of his own. Again, the term victim means, it’s not his fault. I wonder what would have (not) happened if the people to whom Peter preached his first message at Pentecost had responded with, “What are you talking about? Repentance? It wasn’t our fault that Jesus was crucified. The leaders, they made us turn against Him. It’s not our fault He was murdered, it’s theirs. They killed Him, not us.”
What comes to mind is the Nazi soldiers who later abdicated any responsibility for the attempted extinction of the Jewish people by saying, “I only obeyed orders. It wasn’t my fault. What could I do? I’m not responsible for what happened.” Will God see it that way when he stands before Him unrepentant?
This kind of thinking leads to the idea that life isn’t just hard, it’s “unfair.” The person recognizes no evil in themselves; it’s someone else’s or “the system” that has failed them or caused them to act this way. Ultimately it will be seen as God’s fault for allowing whatever occurred. We are simply helpless victims, not people in need of repenting. What the Bible calls sin and an abomination to God are regarded as “diseases” causing people to function improperly, or they are seen as “dysfunctional” caused by influences not coming from themselves.
People often sit in church for years while trying to deal with their “dysfunction” or “disease,” having been absolved by the medical model of their moral need for repentance. We may be hearing “feel good” and affirming messages, but do they leave us in our sin and suffering? Paul preached the “the work of faith with power” (2 Thess. 1:11). That would be power to change lives. “The kingdom of God…has come with power” (Mark 9:1). That is the power to set people free. Where repentance is preached, people are free.
The preaching of sin and repentance doesn’t just leave us with awareness of our sin, it doesn’t condemn us, it gives us the option to embrace righteousness and to turn away and be free from the sin in the power of the Spirit. No one is free when they are in sin.
Preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit isn’t just about gifts and charismatic experiences. The Holy Spirit “will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). He makes us aware, that is He “convicts” us of our sin in order to rescue us from it. Paul said, “for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:5).
Conviction is meant to cleanse and release. You can’t repent of what you don’t know is sin, but once it’s properly identified as a violation against God and not “something wrong with you,” the power of the Holy Spirit is available to you to free you when you forsake it. It’s really not complicated when you see it that way. When we know the truth, the truth will set us free. “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ” If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-33). Notice there is the element of faith in this. If Yeshua said it, it’s truth, and therefore we can believe it and be free!
All heaven is watching and rejoices when they see someone rescued from sin. Yeshua said, “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents” and “I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15: 7&10). The joy isn’t just heaven’s, it’s ours when we repent. “For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.” (Is 30:15). Peace, sweet, wonderful, joyful peace is ours when we are right with God!
Repentance is the key to salvation:
- John the Baptist “appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4)
- Yeshua came to us for this reason: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32); His message clearly was: “I tell you… unless you repent, you will all…perish” (Luke 13:3,5).
- Peter’s first message under the power of the Holy Spirit was, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
- All the disciples “went out and preached that men should repent” (Mark 6:12).
- The entire sacrificial system in Torah was to deal with sin, guilt and restoration.
- The message of the prophets was continually — “repent and live” (Ezek 18:32). They preached from an awareness of God’s holiness.
- Moses sang out of his great revelation of Who God is, “Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders” (Ex. 15:11).
There are some denominations in the church today that see the Old Testament as irrelevant and obsolete and are therefore ignorant of the degree of holiness of God that the Old Covenant reveals. The New Testament was written basically to believers. Who else would have received those letters or the accounts of Yeshua’s life? The writers presumed those they wrote to knew the Lord, even if some, like the brothers and sisters in Corinth, were in need of some serious instructions to come out of their past ways.
Without an awareness of God’s holiness we may not see the need for repentance beyond a cursory measure. The gift of repentance is most appreciated by those who recognize our need of being cleansed by Him. The walk in freedom that Yeshua bought for us with His blood is only obtainable through repentance. Without repentance we can never know the release and the peace and joy of being in His presence. “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
Refusing to accept responsibility for our moral failures keeps us from the change in character that God has provided for us through repentance. Only facing ourselves and confronting those things that are unclean in God’s eyes will allow Him to uproot all that causes us the guilt, pain and sorrow and keeps us from being free in Him. There is such a freedom and comfort with ourselves that comes from being rid of things that hinder us from walking “in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Col 1:10). There are so many changes God wants to make in His body at this time in which we are living, to make us people who will prepare the way of the Lord for His coming.
God is preparing a people to usher in His return. They will be people with insight into how the Kingdom of God works and what God is saying in the midst of whatever is going on from the world’s perspective. I have another goal. I want to be one of these people: “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan. 12:3). I want so much to know God’s truth. An on-going prayer of mine is that I (and His church; that means you) will be free from believing any lies of the devil and will know His truth. Amen? Feel free to join me in that prayer.
The message is still the same: “In repentance…you will be saved” (Isaiah 30:15). We as a society may have been ignorant of how subtly we were wooed away from the gift of repentance but here’s where I believe we are today: “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent” (Acts 17:30). It places us securely under the wings of the Almighty. To repent is to fear (reverence) the name of the Lord as holy. There is tremendous grace, liberty and joy in that. God says, “for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall” (Malachi 4:2). Now that’s a picture of unbridled joy in wholeness!
I end this exhortation on repentance with a doxology. May it be the destiny of each of us:
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 1:24).
Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2009.
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.