Sunday, April 10, 2011

Real Love... Do you want to know and have it?

One of our greatest needs as human beings is to be loved. We all need love. We need to know that we are important to somebody, that somebody truly cares about us, wants us, and accepts us unconditionally. When we doubt that we are loved, we may develop unacceptable behavior patterns to compensate for it.
For example, we may act irresponsibly in a desperate attempt to get attention. Attention is a poor substitute for love but it seems better than nothing at all. We may develop physical symptoms that bring us sympathy and concern. The symptoms cause us genuine pain, but the pain of sickness is more bearable than the pain of admitting that nobody cares. We may angrily lash out at those whom we think should care or we may try to run away from them and hide, but in either case, we are trying to protect ourselves from the hurt they are causing us by their lack of concern. We all need to know that somebody loves us.
The good news from God’s Word is that somebody does. To know Him is to find release from the crippling effects of feeling unloved. Twice the Apostle John categorically stated that God is love (1 John 4:8,16). Love is one of the warmest words in the English language, and that God is love is one of the most sublime, uplifting, and reassuring truths known to mankind. Love is His nature. It is not merely a friendly attitude He projects. It is the essence of His being. He is always going to act toward us in love because He cannot do otherwise. Love is the way He is.
No one attribute of God is any more important than any other, and all His attributes are expressed in conjunction with each other. Yet some believe that love may be the most powerful motivating force in all of God’s being. It deeply affects everything else God is and all that He does. Knowing God’s love could well be the believer’s key to a well-balanced, satisfying life of peace, productivity, and power. It would be rather presumptuous to assume that we can exhaust the subject of God’s love in one brief chapter, but let us try to scratch the surface and begin to explore this fathomless truth. Here are eight characteristics of God’s love.

God’s Love Is Self-Giving

Love involves action. It is expressed in the giving of oneself for the good of another, so it always demands an object. Whenever we talk about love we are suggesting that there is more than one person involved. There must be at least two—the one who loves and the one who is loved. If God has always been love and love demands an object, we may wonder how God demonstrated His love before He created angels or men. Jesus answered that question. He revealed that there was a love relationship between the persons of the triune Godhead from eternity past, when He said to His Father, “Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). We have seen that God is complete and sufficient in and of Himself. He has no needs which must be met by others outside Himself. He did not need to create other beings in order to express His love. It was perfectly expressed between the persons of the Trinity from all eternity.
Yet He did create. Why? He wanted so much to manifest His love that He first created the angelic hosts and later the human race so that he might communicate Himself to them, give of Himself for them, and bestow His very best on them for their benefit and blessing. Our love is often selfish and demanding. God’s love is pure. Because He is love, He loves to give. Jesus said He gives good things to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11). James went so far as to say that every good gift finds its source in Him (James 1:17). Since God is love, we can expect Him to give of Himself.
Knowing the God of love can help to make us more loving and giving persons. Not only will getting to know Him more intimately cause us to become more like Him, but resting secure in the assurance that He loves us will keep us from making demands of others and free us to reach out unselfishly and minister to them for their benefit alone. It is vitally important that we understand how much God loves us.

God’s Love Is Sacrificial

Not only does God’s love motivate Him to give, but it motivates Him to give when it costs Him dearly. That too is different from our love. We hesitate to do anything for others that will cost us too much or inconvenience us too greatly. But God’s love cost Him the very best that He had—His only Son. That is the message of the greatest love text in the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God’s giving His Son involved more than merely allowing Him to leave Heaven’s glory and enter earth’s history. It meant allowing Him to die in our place and pay the awful debt of our sins. God proved His love conclusively and irrefutably by sending His Son to the cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9-10). That is sacrificial love.
It was no less of a sacrifice for God the Son than it was for God the Father. His willingness to offer Himself was the summit of sacrificial love. Paul called Him “the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). When the same apostle outlined God’s principles for harmonious marital relationships, he said, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). Jesus Christ made the supreme sacrifice for us when He died in our place. He was falsely accused, beaten, spit on, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, and left to die the most excruciating death known to man. The infinite curse of sin’s penalty, the Father’s just punishment for the whole world’s guilt, was laid on Him as He hung on that cross. He possessed the power to walk away from it unscathed, yet He voluntarily stayed there and bore that suffering for us. There simply is no greater love (John 15:13).
Whenever we are tempted to think that nobody loves us, we need to think of the cross. Jesus bore that shame and suffering because He loves us. He values us so highly that He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to secure for us eternal joy. That is the epitome of love. Knowing Him intimately will motivate us to make some sacrifices for the good of others—for our spouses, our children, and other members of the body of Christ. It will help us give up what we want in order to minister to their needs.

God’s Love Is Unconditional

One of the most amazing things about God’s love is that it is extended to us when we do not deserve it and continues steadfast and strong even when we do not respond to it. In other words, His love is unconditional. That certainly is different from our love. We have a tendency to show more love to the people who obviously love us and less love to the ones who do not. We express our love to our spouses and our children when they perform to our expectations and we withhold it from them when they displease us. We shower affection on the lovable children and avoid the belligerent little rascals who look as if they might want to kick us in the shins. I find it easy to express my love to my wife when she tells me what a wonderful husband I am, but not quite so easy when she scolds me for not taking out the trash. I find it easier to be loving toward my children when they are obeying me willingly, but not quite so easy when they are resisting me.
God is not like that. The best-loved verse in the Bible says, “For God so loved the world,” that is, the whole world. That does not refer to the materials out of which our planet is constructed, but to the world of people. It does not mean the whole mass of humanity generally; it refers to each individual sinful person. The Bible categorizes all of them as God’s enemies, people who have willfully set themselves against Him (cf. Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21). God even loves His enemies—all of them.
There is not one good thing in any of us that merits God’s love. He does not love us because we are so lovable or because we can somehow make ourselves worthy of His love. We are totally unworthy, yet He prizes us highly and showers His very best on us. It is His love for us that gives us our worth. God finds great delight and receives great glory when we respond to His love, enter His fellowship, and do His will. In fact, He made us for that purpose. But whether or not we ever return His love, He keeps on extending it to us. There is nothing we can do to make Him love us any more, and nothing we ever do will cause Him to love us any less. He loves us perfectly and completely regardless of how we perform. His love is unconditional.
So many of us are performance oriented. We have felt approved and accepted when we have performed to someone else’s satisfaction, and disapproved and rejected when we have failed to live up to their standards. Consequently, we treat others the same way. If they please us, we treat them kindly and considerately. If they displease us, we feel justified in treating them unkindly and unlovingly. Knowing God intimately will help us express love to others when they do not perform to our expectations.
There is a great Biblical illustration of God’s unconditional love in His relationship with the nation Israel. “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). Can we see what He is implying? There is no human reason for His love for Israel. They were a rebellious, stiff-necked people. But He loved them simply because He loved them.
That is how it is with you and me. He loves us just because He loves us. Nothing we ever did made Him love us, so nothing we ever do will make Him stop loving us. He loves us when we’re grouchy just as much as when we’re glad. He loves us when we sin just as much as when we don’t. He loves us when we open our mouths and say things we know we shouldn’t have said. He loves us when our wives or husbands or parents or children are not treating us as though they love us. He loves us when we’re feeling as though nobody in the whole world loves us. He loves us even when we don’t like ourselves. He never stops loving us.

God’s Love Is Eternal

This message also was given originally to the nation Israel, but its application is for every true child of God.
The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying,
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness (Jeremiah 31:3).
That everlasting love reaches into eternity past. He knew us and loved us before He made us, when we were but a thought in His mind. And He will love us for eternity to come, for, as Paul assured us, nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39). The love of an eternal God must be an eternal love.
If anybody ever deserved to forfeit the love of Christ it was His earthly disciples. They were men of inestimable spiritual privileges, yet they displayed an amazingly small degree of spiritual insight. Witness their behavior on the evening of the last Passover. The impending ordeal of bearing the world’s sins was weighing heavily on the Lord’s heart and He longed for their prayerful support. But Luke informs us that they were more interested in arguing about which one of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24).
None of them even extended the common social courtesy of the day by washing the others’ feet when they entered the room for dinner. They probably were too busy competing for the seats of honor near the Lord. Later three of them fell asleep when they were supposed to be praying, all of them deserted the Lord when He was taken captive, one of them denied Him, and another one later doubted Him. Notice how this upper room episode began: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He should depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). To the end of what? Who can really say? He will love us to the end of our waywardness and wanderings. He will love us to the end of our deepest need. He will love us to the end of our lives, to the end of time, to the farthest extremity of eternity. He will love us forever. His love is eternal.
How can we ever exhaust the love of God! The love of an infinite God must be infinite love. Paul called it a love that “surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19), far greater than our finite minds can grasp. He also called it a “great love” (Ephesians 2:4). He referred to its breadth, its length, its depth, and its height (Ephesians 3:18), but it is obvious that he was speaking of dimensions that defy measurement: breadth and length which encompass the whole world, a depth which reaches to the lowest sinner, a height which exalts us to the loftiest Heaven. God’s love has no limit. It is described in F. M. Lehman’s gospel song:
Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above, Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Tho’ stretched from sky to sky.
I read somewhere that those words were penciled on the wall of a narrow room in an asylum by a man who supposedly was demented, and they were discovered after his death. He was not demented at all. He had learned one of the most precious truths of all time, that God’s love is infinite. We can no more exhaust it than we can empty the ocean with a bucket. And we are invited to keep drawing from His inexhaustible supply. To do so will enable us to keep extending love to those around us even when our love is not returned.

God’s Love Is Holy

When some people hear that God’s love is self-giving, sacrificial, unconditional, eternal, and infinite, they get the idea that it is merely soft, sloppy sentimentality, that God is an indulgent Father who gives us everything we want and conveniently turns His head the other way when we sin. But that is not the case. Everything God does is done in the totality of His being, so His love must always be consistent with His other attributes. Since God is holy, then His love must be a holy love that encourages holiness in those loved. The evidence is overwhelming! For example, in the same context in which Paul explains that we in love were predestined unto the adoption of sons, he states God’s purpose for choosing us. It is “that we should be holy and without blame before Him” (Ephesians 1:4). Love and obedience consistently go together in Scripture: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3; cf. also John 14:15; 15:10).
God will use every loving means at His disposal to encourage our obedience. He does that because He loves us. We discussed discipline when we studied God’s holiness, but we cannot overlook it here. The writer to the Hebrews encouraged us not to regard God’s discipline lightly. It is the evidence of His love for us (Hebrews 12:5-6). He knows that obedience to His Word will be for our greatest happiness, so He takes steps to help us want to obey Him. If He did not love us, He would not care about our happiness.
What kind of loving parents would we be if we let our children do anything they pleased, such as put their hands in the fire, ride their tricycles on the freeway, or play superman on the roof of the house? The authorities would probably declare us to be unfit parents. Our love constrains us to discipline in order to insure the kind of behavior that will bring our children future happiness. And that is exactly what our loving heavenly Father does.
He does not enjoy inflicting pain any more than we do. Before my father spanked me as a child, he used to say, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” That was difficult for me to believe at the time, and I never understood it until I became a parent myself. Then it became all too clear. It wasn’t my hand that hurt; it was my heart. God says the same thing. Concerning His people Israel we read, “In all their affliction He was afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9). He feels our pain because He loves us. Don’t chafe under His disciplinary hand. He knows best what we need, and He always administers it in love for our best interests. We can respond to His holy love by bringing our lives into conformity to His Word.

God’s Love Is Comforting

Some children would give everything they have for someone who loves them and cares enough for them to set limits on their behavior and administer loving discipline when they violate those limits. That would mean more to them than all the material things in the world because it is the evidence of true love, and true love brings security and comfort. They know that someone who loves them enough to endure the unpleasantness of administering discipline will do everything in his power to take care of them, and that brings them genuine consolation. When we grasp the reality of God’s love, we will no longer seek our security in jobs, bank accounts, investments, houses, husbands, wives, friends, or health. We will rest in the Lord, free from all fear, secure in the assurance that He is going to provide all that we need and protect us from everything that will not be for our good.
Listen to the Apostle John again: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18). God never punishes His children. He laid all the punishment for our sins on His Son. He disciplines us in love for our benefit, but even that is nothing to be afraid of. Understanding God’s love eliminates all fear—fear of God’s discipline, fear of what tomorrow holds, fear of losing a loved one, fear of losing a job, fear of natural catastrophies, fear of global war, fear of suffering, fear of death, fear of being alone, fear of rejection. God loves us! There is nothing to fear. His love is comforting.

God’s Love is Life-Changing

Most of us long to be loving people, able to give love to our spouses, our children, our fellow believers, our unsaved acquaintances, and, most of all, to the Lord Himself. But we find it so difficult. It is nearly impossible for us to love others unless we are genuinely convinced that we ourselves are loved. Some of us are hard, callused, insensitive, and unloving people because we are not convinced we are really loved. We are saying unconsciously, “Why should I be loving to others when nobody shows me any love?” God’s love can change that. We can find all the acceptance and affection we crave in Him; then with the confidence that we ourselves are loved, we can extend love to others. “We love,” said the Apostle John, “because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
It really is true—God loves us. Jesus said it plainly: “For the Father Himself loves you” (John 16:27). It is to our advantage to know and believe the love that He has for us (1 John 4:16). We may never be able to grasp it fully with our human understanding alone, but God is ready to make it real to us if our hearts are open and receptive to His Word. Then, secure in His love, we shall be able to reach out in love to others, unselfishly, sacrificially, unconditionally, and inexhaustibly. It will profoundly influence our relationships with those around us.
A world-renowned theologian was asked by a student what he considered to be the most significant theological truth he ever learned. His answer was, “Jesus loves me. This I know; for the Bible tells me so.” Believe it, Christian. God loves you!

Action To Take

Look for evidences of God’s love for you all throughout the day, and remind yourself often that you are the object of His endless love.
Tell several others during the day that God loves them

Friday, April 1, 2011

You Are Free to Live as a Spiritual Person -How You Can Experience God's Love and Forgiveness part II

Find relief in the reality that you cannot live the Christian life on your own.

You can discover the same freedom Paul found. And you can enjoy the victory he wrote about in Romans chapter 8:
So there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit -- and this power is mine through Christ Jesus -- has freed me from the vicious circle of sin and death.
We aren't saved from sin's grasp by knowing the commandments of God, because we can't and don't keep them, but God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours -- except that ours are sinful -- and destroyed sin's control over us by giving himself as a sacrifice for our sins. So now we can obey God's laws if we follow after the Holy Spirit and no longer obey the old evil nature within us (Romans 8:1-4, TLB).
The Holy Spirit supplies power for you to live as a spiritual person. For years I had sought God with all of my heart. I tried all kinds of self-imposed discipline, including days of fasting and prayer, begging God for His power. The more I tried, the more frustrated I became.
Then one day, as I was studying this passage in the book of Romans, I read a verse that changed my perspective:
The old sinful nature within us is against God. It never did obey God's laws and it never will (Romans 8:7, TLB).
What a relief to discover that I could never be able to live the Christian life through my own efforts. I must trust Christ to live His resurrection life through me. He alone could enable me to live as I should. You see, the Christian life is a supernatural life and only Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can enable you to live it.
Self-imposed religious disciplines lead only to defeat and frustration. The Holy Spirit liberates you from the vicious power of sin and death. Only the power of the Holy Spirit gives victory!

By faith you can experience God's love and forgiveness and live as a spiritual person. Faith, not your own effort, pleases God.
But it isn't enough to just have faith in faith itself. On a winter day, a man can have great faith that the ice on a lake would support his weight. With great faith he can boldly walk out on thin ice - and get very wet.
You must place your faith, weak or strong, in an object worth trusting. The object of a Christian's faith is the Lord Jesus Christ and His holy, inspired Word. Only our Lord has the power to deliver you from a worldly life to a relationship of great joy and fruitful blessings.
You must place your faith in a trustworthy God and His Word. The better you get to know God, the more you will trust Him. And the more you trust Him, the more you will experience His selfless love and limitless power.

How You Can Receive God's Love and Forgiveness

Discover the joy of spiritual breathing

Have you ever questioned Christ's forgiveness? If so, I have good news for you. Christ's death, in your place, is the basis for your forgiveness. Because of Christ's substitutionary death on the cross, your forgiveness is not merely a hope. It is fact!
Christ paid the price for all of your sins -- totally, once and for all. If you are a Christian, all of your sins -- past, present, and future -- have been forgiven. You cannot add anything to what Christ has already done for you.
Pleadings, tears, personal efforts, and religious ritual cannot reconcile you to God. That has already taken place -- the moment you confessed your sins and placed your faith in Christ as your Savior and Lord.
Hebrews 10 proclaims:
Under this new plan we have been forgiven and made clean by Christ's dying for us once and for all.
For by that one offering he made forever perfect in the sight of God all those whom he is making holy.
Now, when sins have once been forever forgiven and forgotten, there is no need to offer more sacrifices to get rid of them(Hebrews 10:10,14,18 TLB).
To receive God's forgiveness, simply confess your sin and accept his forgiveness by faith. I call this process "Spiritual Breathing."
Just as you exhale and inhale physically, so you must also breathe spiritually.
You exhale spiritually when you confess your sins. The Bible promises that if you confess your sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive you and to purify you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). To confess your sins means to agree with God about your sins. Your agreement is threefold.
First, you agree that your sins are wrong and grieve God. God is holy and will have nothing to do with sin. Although He loves you even though you may have unconfessed sin in your life, you must consider your sin as seriously as He does to receive His forgiveness. Without acknowledging your sin, you have no hope of salvation. Proverbs 14:9 says, "Fools mock at making amends for sin." John writes, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives (1 John 1:8,10).
Second, you recognize that God has already forgiven your sins through Christ's death and the shedding of His blood on the cross.
Confession, then, is an expression of faith and an act of obedience, which results in God making real in your experience what He has already done for you through the death of His Son. This real and ongoing experience of God's forgiveness helps you remain an open channel through which God's love and power can flow.
Unconfessed sin short-circuits the flow of God's power in your life. Let me illustrate. One day, as I was operating the controls of my son's electric train, it suddenly stopped running. I could not figure out what was wrong. I took the train apart, and put it back together. I pushed the plug in and out of the socket; nothing happened. Then I discovered that a little piece of metal -- a "No Left Turn" sign -- had fallen across the tracks, short-circuiting all the electrical power.
To maintain a victorious Christian life and live as a spiritual Christian, you must keep short accounts with God. By that I mean, you confess any sin that enters your life the moment God's Holy Spirit reveals it to you. If you refuse to confess your sin, you become carnal and walk in the shadow instead of in the light of God's love and forgiveness.
Third, you repent. You change your attitude, which results in a change of action. Through the strength of the Holy Spirit, you turn from your sins and change your conduct. Instead of giving in to the compulsion to what your worldly, fleshly nature wants to do, you now do what God wants in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Through confessing your sins, you begin the process of "Spiritual Breathing" by exhaling. You change from a worldly Christian to a spiritual Christian by inhaling, appropriating the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit by faith. Many people today deny the stain of sin in their lives. Others attempt to ignore sin's smudge by saying, "It's not so bad." Some try to excuse their blemish claiming, "I'm no worse than anyone else." And many others attempt their own methods to overcome sin's blot in their lives. But the only hope anyone has to overcome sin is a supernatural cleansing -- the cleansing that only God can perform through His Son, the Lord Jesus, who died and shed His blood for our sins.
King David was well acquainted with sin. Psalm 51 was written after Nathan the prophet had come to inform David of God's judgment against him because of his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, her husband. Yet David is described as a man after God's own heart because he was repentant. "O loving and kind God, have mercy," he wrote. "Have pity upon me and take away the awful stain of my transgressions. Oh, wash me, cleanse me from this guilt. Let me be pure again. For I admit my shameful deed..." (Psalm 51:1-3, TLB).
And in Psalm 32 he expresses the joy he felt over God's love and forgiveness:
What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.
There was a time when I wouldn't admit what a sinner I was. But my dishonesty made me miserable and filled my days with frustration. All day and all night your hand was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water on a sunny day until I finally admitted all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them. I said to myself, "I will confess them to the Lord." And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone (Psalm 32:1-5, TLB).
David, from the depths of his experience, shares this admonition from his heart: "Now I say that each believer should confess his sins to God when he is aware of them, while there is time to be forgiven. Judgment will not touch him if he does" (Psalm 32:6, TLB).
I am concerned about multitudes of Christians who are being disciplined by God because they do not confess their sins. They have financial reverses, physical illnesses, and all kinds of difficulties -- all because they are being disobedient to Him, and He is trying to get their attention so that He can bless and enrich their lives.
I encourage you to do what I do when I experience difficulties -- turn to the Lord and ask, "Lord, is there sin in my life that is making it necessary for You to discipline me?" The Scriptures say those whom God loves, He disciplines (Hebrews 12:6). When you experience difficulties, it is important to look into the mirror of God's Word and to confess any sin that He reveals.
God's cleansing from the sins that hinder you opens the way to the abundant, fulfilling life to which Jesus has called you.
By faith you can simply claim as true what Jesus Christ has said and done for you. By faith you can view yourself as God views you, as His child -- loved, forgiven, and cleansed. By faith you can confess your sins and repent. And by faith you can accept God's forgiveness and cleansing.

If I'm Forgiven, Why Should I Confess?

Now you may wonder, "If Christ has already paid the penalty for my sins, why should I confess then?"
By confessing your sin, you act on your faith in God and His Word. Confession does not give you more forgiveness. Christ has already forgiven you once and for all. But by admitting your sins, you establish in your experience what God has done for you through the death of His Son.
Jesus told a story to illustrate confession and God's forgiveness (condensed from Luke 15:11-32). At the insistence of his younger son, a father gave the boy his share of the family estate. The son left home and wasted his inheritance on parties and prostitutes.
Later, the son returned home destitute, hungry, and feeling he was no longer worthy to be considered a son. But his father ran to meet him, embraced and kissed him, put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet, and held a banquet in his honor.
Through this parable, Jesus was teaching that God loves you not "when," "if," or "because" you deserve it, but even when you are disobedient and rebellious. One of my most moving discoveries in the study of Scripture was a statement Jesus made in a prayer recorded in John 17:22,23:
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Think of it! God loves you as much as He loves His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It's true. When you confess your sins, God, in His unconditional love, welcomes you back and eagerly forgives you. Instead of running away from Him in fear, you can run to His loving arms, confident that He forgives you.
But if you refuse to deal honestly with God by ignoring your sins, you become worldly and are living in the shadows instead of walking in God's light. As 1 John 1:6,7 says:
If we say we are his friends, but go on living in spiritual darkness and sin, we are lying. But if we are living in the light of God's presence, just as Christ does, then we have wonderful fellowship and joy with each other, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from every sin(TLB).

What Might Happen If You Haven't Confessed Your Sin

Perhaps you are aware of sins that you haven't confessed to God. As a result, you have left your first love for Him. You may feel resentment toward someone. Your relationship with Christ may seem mechanical and routine. Your prayers do not seem to reach God. You read the Bible, but you do not remember what you have read. You may even attempt to witness for Christ, but no one responds.
One day I was speaking to a friend on a cellular car phone. At one point in our conversation, all I could hear was loud static. Some obstruction had interrupted the radio signal, and I missed a portion of what my friend had said. After the car had cleared the obstacle, I could once again hear his voice clearly, and we were able to continue our conversation.
Sin obstructs your communication and relationship with God. When you tolerate sin in your life, you can't hear God. You become discouraged and confused. Soon, you may find yourself operating on your memories of God instead of living in vital interaction with Him.
All you need to do to experience God's forgiveness is to confess your sins -- exhale spiritually. That cleansing breath restores your fellowship with Him.

A Spiritual Formula

This simple process has helped thousands of people experience forgiveness.

Let me share a simple process, a spiritual formula, that has helped thousands of people to experience God's love and forgiveness.
1. List Your Sins
It begins by asking the Holy Spirit to reveal every sin in your life. Take a pencil and paper and list every sin He brings to mind. As you write, confess each one of them to God.
I encourage you to humble yourself before God as you do this. Give Him time to reveal everything in your life that is displeasing to Him. This list is just between you and God, so be completely honest. Tell Him everything that's wrong.
Your list may include (to name a few):
  • Leaving your first love for God
  • Spending little or no time praying or reading and studying God's Word
  • Seldom, if ever, witnessing for Christ
  • Lacking faith in God
  • Having a jealous attitude
  • Lusting after material things
  • Dealing with others in a spirit of pride
  • Acting selfishly
  • Being dishonest, lying
  • Talking about others behind their back
  • Entertaining immoral thoughts
  • Committing sexual sins
Whatever your sin, write it down and remember: you have a loving God who forgives you -- who even gave His Son, the Lord Jesus, to die for you.
A young man said to me after an evening meeting, "I didn't believe I needed to make a list. I couldn't think of anything seriously wrong in my life. But when I saw others making their lists, the Spirit of God told me to do the same."
While there were no major areas of disobedience in his life, he said, a lot of little things had dulled the cutting edge of his love and witness for Christ.
He encouraged me, "If you ever speak on this subject again, be sure to insist that everyone, including those who think there are no major sins in their lives, make a list of their sins. If I had not made my list, I would have missed a special blessing from God."
2. Write God's Promise Across the List
After you have written the sins that God reveals to you, write God's promise of forgiveness from 1 John 1:9 across the list:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
3. Destroy the List
When you have completed your time of prayer and confession, accept His forgiveness by faith, then destroy the list as an illustration of the forgiveness God has granted you. You may want to tear it into pieces or burn it to show how completely God has forgiven you.
4. Make Restitution
The final step in the process is to ask God if you need to make restitution to someone. You may need to apologize for having a bad attitude toward someone. You may need to ask someone to forgive you for the way you have treated him or her. You may need to return something you have stolen.
It's important for you to make restitution to others because you cannot maintain a clear conscience before God if you still have a guilty conscience before people. Confession often includes making restitution.
At the conclusion of a Christian medical meeting where I had spoken on the subject of forgiveness, a doctor accepted my challenge to make his list. He was very excited when he came to see me early the next morning.
"Last night about midnight," he said, "a doctor friend of mine came to my room and told me that he had hated me for years while pretending to be my friend. As he was making his list, God told him that he should come and tell me and ask me to forgive him. We had the most wonderful time of prayer, and God met us in a special way."
He encouraged me to keep telling Christians to confess their sins to God and, if necessary, to ask forgiveness of those whom they have wronged as the Holy Spirit leads them.
"But I Still Feel Guilty!"
If, after you have fully confessed all of your known sins to God, you still feel a sense of guilt, it may be because you have not been completely honest with God by making a full disclosure. So be sure you are honest with God.
Are you weighed down by heavy burdens of guilt? Do you sometimes wonder if you will ever experience the love and forgiveness of God that other Christians joyfully profess?
Perhaps you feel like the man who was stumbling along the road with a heavy pack on his back. Soon, a wagon stopped, and the driver offered to give him a ride. Joyfully, the weary traveler accepted. But when he climbed onto the wagon, he continued to strain under his heavy load.
"Why don't you take off your pack and rest?" the driver asked.
The discouraged traveler replied, "Oh, I couldn't do that! It would be too much to ask you to carry my load as well as me."
"How foolish," you say. We wouldn't think of responding like that to such an offer, would we? Yet many Christians continue to carry heavy burdens of guilt even after they have entrusted their lives to the Lord Jesus and received His forgiveness.
Frequently we experience hostility or punishment from our friends or family when we fall short of their expectations. If you have truly wronged another person, confessing it and making restitution when necessary will release the guilt. But feelings of guilt will linger if you do not forgive yourself or if you try to live up to the unrealistic expectations of others.
None of us is perfect. But as Christians we do not live in condemnation. As one who has been forgiven, you are righteous before God in Jesus Christ.
When you have completed this simple process, any feelings of guilt that remain are not from God. They are from your enemy Satan. Your sins have been removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). They are buried in the deepest sea (Micah 7:19). God has put them behind His back and remembers them against you no more (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12; 10:17).
Digging Up Dead Birds
There was a young boy who had a pet bird, and one day the bird died. The boy was broken-hearted, and his father and mother decided that instead of allowing their son to be downcast, they would make something memorable of the occasion.
They said, "Let's have a funeral." Calling all the neighbor children together, they dug a little hole in the ground, put the bird in a box, and buried it with a ceremony. Instead of being downcast, the boy was excited.
But the next day, he went out and dug up the bird to see how it was getting along. His father, however, insisted that he bury it. So he did. A few days later, the boy went out and dug up the bird again. This happened several times, and each time the father would reprimand him. Finally, the father became angry and said, "Now look, you leave that bird in the ground, and don't ever dig it up again!"
Are you confessing your sins over and over again -- out of a sense of guilt -- like the little boy digging up that old dead bird?
All of your sins have been forgiven by God on the basis of Christ's death on the cross and the shedding of His blood for your sins. Whenever Satan accuses you of some act in your past that has grieved or quenched the Holy Spirit, you can say with great joy, "I have confessed that sin and I know God has forgiven me and cleansed me as He promised."
I challenge you to examine your life right now. Are you experiencing the fullness of the Christian life? Are you carrying a load of guilt over past sins in you life? I urge you to begin the process of Spiritual Breathing today. It has helped millions of other Christians, and I know it will also help you.
God's forgiveness is complete. Thank Him for canceling your guilt and cleansing you. Claim victory over those negative feelings and move on in faith to be a fruitful disciple and witness for our Lord.
Now you are free to experience the abundant life that He promised. Now you can encourage and serve your brothers and sisters in Christ. And now you can enter the harvest fields to enjoy bringing other people to the Lord Jesus who has done so much for you.
Remember, How You Can Experience God's Love and Forgiveness is a transferable concept. You can master it by reading it six times; then pass it on to others as our Lord commands us in Matthew 28:20, "Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you." The apostle Paul encouraged us to do the same: "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others" (2 Timothy 2:2).