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Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The Pastor's role in God's House - Forgiveness
I've known a lot of ministers who had a great heart for God but one thing led to another and they made a mistake. One mistake shouldn't ruin their lives or destroy their ministry. Yet...if we are concerned about sanctification in the House of God, how can we have leaders who are not in "good standing" with God? How can we have ministers who take the pulpit to encourage others to live a "righteous" life and yet the consequences of their sins glare at congregants.
I guess the best example of this is Moses. What a difficult task he had. You know the story about growing up in the palace, finding out he was Hebrew and then leading the people of Israel out of bondage. Amazing! But then he did murder an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. God may have forgiven him for that - especially since it was sort of justified - but then Moses ran into the wilderness. He loses everything because he was taking up for God's people. Hum, but God blesses him in the wilderness. He finds a wife, has a child and gets to spend 40 years training to be God's man.
God calls him once again. He's repented, he's suffered the consequences and he's been in training. Now he's sent to Egypt to set God's people free. Listen to how he grumbles to God....Exodus 3:10-11...."So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." But Moses said to God "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" For the rest of Chapter 3 and most of Chapter 4 Moses comes up with excuse after worrisome excuse.
Debbie's translation - After 40 years it seems like Moses still suffered from the things he was taught and the sins he had committed. He was a prince of Egypt and yet he didn't feel qualified to approach Pharaoh. God finally had to send Aaron with him to help him. Talk about consequences! Moses was the only man at that time that was allowed to have a direct conversation with God. God- maker of the universe, creator of all living things, divine inventor of everything on earth and in heaven - yet the consequences of Moses's sins ruined his self-esteem and made him fearful of Pharaoh. God was on his side and yet he didn't have the courage to face Pharaoh without Aaron.
Moses calls down miracle after miracle until Pharaoh finally bends to God. Moses proudly walks out of Egypt with God's people. What a wonderful day! But wait...Pharaoh comes after them and God performs another miracle by sending fire from heaven and parting the waters. Now that's a great day! Surely there wouldn't be any reason for Moses to ever disobey God. Surely he had learned how mighty and miraculous God was!
Well... you'd think so wouldn't you. But that old sin crept in again. The same anger that burned within him and caused him to kill once again raised it's ugly head. Once again his anger caused him to disobey God and destroy the tablets written by the very hand of God. Yikes!
Once again God forgives Moses, but this time there are consequences that God will not repair. This time Moses isn't allowed to go into the promise land.
My Dad thinks that maybe this was a blessing rather than a punishment. The Hebrew children had been so wicked and stupid, that it might have been a relief for Moses not to have to continue to lead them. While Moses could have put that kind of positive spin on what happened....for me it's a clear directive about the forgiveness and love of God.
All through the Bible, God shows his love and his ability to forgive. He uses every bit of power he has to show compassion and forgiveness. But there is a limit. There is a time when God turns his back and refuses to remove the consequences of any sinner even the sins of his children or prophets.
If we are diligent about being God's men and women and if we are diligent about making it to Heaven.....then we better know and avoid the things that will cause God to turn his back to us. And this is where the greatest demands fall on our leaders - our pastors and priests - Men and women who are called to lead others to Christ. Above all, they should have a higher standard and should be careful about doing the right thing. They can't be fooled into sin or be lax in their study of the desires that trap men. As leaders they must lead the way to a Godly - righteous life. And if they don't....they too will find forgiveness - but they may not be able to continue to serve. Forgiveness does not release us from responsibility or from consequences.
I was talking with someone the other day who asked me if I could forgive a certain person. I replied, "Forgiveness is easy. I can forgive most anything anyone does. Forgetting what has been done or removing the consequences - that is something totally different."
I was talking to a young man who said he was a Christian but wasn't convinced that he should wait until marriage to be intimate. I smiled and said, "What about the consequences?"
"Oh there's not going to be any consequences. I'm safe."
"I'm sorry dear, that's just not true. The consequences will still be there even if there's no child. There will be women around that may decide at some point to come forward and destroy your good Christian name by "telling it all". They may someday ruin your marriage to that nice Christian girl who thought she was the only one. Or...maybe their child will become friends with your child. Just when you are telling your beautiful young daughter to save herself for the right man, she will find out that you didn't. Even if she doesn't find out, you will always feel like a hypocrite telling your children to be good when you know you weren't. And then there's the girls that you defile. Perhaps they had dreams or wanted to wait but you convinced them not to. Their dreams are crushed just so you can have a pleasurable moment. No dear, there are consequences. Nothing we will ever do is totally free of consequences."
He stared at me for a good minute or so and then the tears began to fall. He knew I was telling him the truth. He had heard his own father cry because he couldn't offer an example of purity within his own life. He also knew that my husband and I were pure when we were married. He had an immediate contrast with two opposing views and two lives that lived with the good and bad consequences.
Pastors....all I'm saying is that God wants you to be an example. Can he forgive you when you do wrong? Of course! the Bible is full of second chances and God's forgiveness. Just remember that a life of purity and a life that avoids the consequences of sin is a lot easier for your congregation to follow.
God loves you,